Omaha City Council working to approve streetcar redevelopment agreement

More conversations about the streetcar project that is in the works for downtown Omaha.
Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 10:29 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 14, 2022 at 10:37 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - City Council is working to approve their new agreement with the newly formed Omaha Streetcar Authority.

The redevelopment agreement essentially sets the rules and regulations for the streetcar and sets the obligations of the OSA and the City. The document sets the framework that the city can support a bond issue for the size of the requested TIF funding, $350 million.

That funding will go toward the streetcar’s design, construction, and maintenance. But those involved say it’s much more than that.

“This initiative is based on economic development and jobs for the core of the region that will strengthen the entire region,” says OSA President Jay Noddle. “It really is essential infrastructure.”

“I also think it’s rocket fuel for the city, for the development within our community,” says Jason Lanoha with Lanoha Real Estate.

“We support the Omaha streetcar because it’s both a bold mood and a wise-measured investment in the future of the city,” says Scott Dobbie, the executive director of Omaha By Design.

It could be six to nine months before designs for the streetcar are complete, but developers say they’re hoping to break ground in January.

“Even if we take this step today, even if we issue bonds, sell sufficient bonds, commence design and construction, there’s still a significant amount of time that’s going to be associated with the design and engineering process,” says Jennifer Taylor with the city’s law department.

“We still have to figure out what’s under the streets, where these rails could go, what the proper route is.”

As the process continues to barrel forward, others in the community are hoping that other projects around the city aren’t left out of the process.

“We just want to make sure that the bikeway that currently is a pilot project on Harney is considered when they think about the location of the streetcar,” says Julie Harris, the executive director of Bike Walk Nebraska.

Harris says Bikewalk Nebraska is fully in support of the streetcar and emphasizes that the two modes of transportation could go hand in hand.

“It will never be easier or cheaper to build the permanent bike lane than it will be to do it in conjunction with the streetcar,” she tells 6 News.

The Market-to-Midtown Bikeway pilot will end this fall, and city officials say results from the project could be worked into the design process when the streetcar team gets there in the coming months.

Although the streetcar project is moving quickly, council members and developers express the importance of diligence and transparency throughout the process.

“A lot of questions have been asked, we’ve got answers on many, and again from now to two weeks when our next meeting happens, I’m looking forward to getting the rest of that information,” says district three Councilmember Danny Begley.

The vote on the agreement will take place on June 28, and if it doesn’t pass, the city law department says it will be ‘detrimental to the streetcar.’

Approval of the agreement does not approve the streetcar or obligate the city to issue or sell bonds, but is a necessary step to get there.

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