Omaha, Council Bluffs team up on streetcar plan

Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 4:53 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 29, 2022 at 7:28 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - They’re hoping to replace bus traffic with a streetcar in Council Bluffs.

For years Bluffs officials have been traveling and looking at how streetcars work in other cities.

Now that Omaha has made its plans official, Council Bluffs is excited to be a part of the future streetcar system.

“It really doesn’t make sense for Council Bluffs to put in a streetcar system on Broadway without having it connect to somewhere else, about 19,000 people a day in Council Bluffs go to work in Omaha many of them down in that downtown area,” said Mayor Matt Walsh.

Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh believes a streetcar moving traffic to and from downtown Omaha will help economic growth in his city. The mayor says Council Bluffs owns acres and acres of land along West Broadway.

And talk of a streetcar connecting to downtown Omaha is drawing the attention of people who want to be close to the line.

“We have developers currently looking at and many of them are interested in the streetcar as an amenity for their mixed use commercial residential development.”

Drew Kamp is the President and CEO of the Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce. Kamp says it will take officials on both sides of the river working together to make this project work.

“It’s just really exciting to have that mutual interest to move a major project forward,” said Kamp.

It will also take a lot of money to move a streetcar across the Missouri River.

“Just ballpark numbers thrown out they’re thinking anywhere from $80 to $100 million to get across and it would be multi-model, there will be a bike route for people who want to do that.”

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Mayor Walsh hopes to get the lion’s share of the funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and help make Council Bluffs and Omaha one big metro area.

City officials say part of the thinking right now is to sell the Dodge Park Golf Course to make way for future development.

“It opens up a development opportunity at Dodge Park for a multi-use development in which you could see hundreds of millions of dollars invested in that area that’s owned by the city,” said Kamp.

Drew Kamp believes developing the golf course would be a perfect fit for Omaha’s Urban Core Development Plan and allow the bluffs to tap into future job growth coming to the other side of the river.

“That’s something that can have a major impact on the community growth and really push us into attracting and retaining some of those 6,000 new jobs that will be coming to UNMC plus the thousands of others that will be moving downtown with mutual and others.”

City officials think the golf course could be developed into something like Omaha’s Aksarben area with restaurants, entertainment, housing and attracting some of Omaha’s future workforce.

“Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that UNMC is on 42nd and 42nd is a lot closer to Council Bluffs than the undeveloped areas of Omaha which are in some cases out past 200th,” said Walsh.

Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh says selling the golf course could help pay for development plans along the city’s West Broadway corridor and for the bridge that will hook Council Bluffs into Omaha’s streetcar system.

“I feel a streetcar will be that amenity that will just make Council Bluffs bloom.”

Council Bluffs city officials plan to hire consultants to help map out the city’s development plans and figure out how to hook up to Omaha’s streetcar system.

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