Business owner brings up potential challenges of Omaha streetcar route

In support of the streetcar project, he shared the challenge Monday with those in charge.
Business owners along the Omaha streetcar route asked questions.
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 5:42 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Those in charge of putting streetcars in Omaha try to alleviate the concerns of neighbors. One business owner along the proposed route shows what has troubled him in the last few months.

“I’m 4th generation and I have three of my kids working here,” said Tom Koley.

Tom Koley’s Omaha business is a family affair. His great grandfather is on the outdoor mural of Koley’s Incorporated.

For more than 100 years, the core job has stayed the same.

Restore and repair metals and custom builds. The pieces are often heavy but it’s delicate work, especially the fine church items. It also involves large pieces of equipment in the process. And in order to move products and bring in supplies, semis are a necessary part of doing business.

“The semis will get their nose at the front and then back in. And I’ll get my crew to stop traffic,” said Koley.

Here’s his concern, the streetcar route goes by his front door, straight down Harney Street. He worries that since the streetcar is on a schedule what happens when one of his semis backs up to his loading dock, a process that takes skill and time?

Those in charge of putting streetcars in Omaha try to alleviate the concerns of neighbors.

Tom Koley, who supports the streetcar project, shared the challenge Monday with those in charge.

“I think it’s a great idea, but in all practicality, we’ve been in business for a long time and I’d like to stay in business,” said Koley.

And for the first time, the long-time business owner received an answer. Something that should be reassuring to the number of other businesses along the six miles of track on the streetcar route.

“You’re sharing the space. The design approach has to be to respect the use of that space because we’re sharing it. There’s a very strong determination of streetcar design standards to assure that we can work with the neighboring businesses,” said Rick Gustafson, Omaha Streetcar Authority interim director.

While the city is two years away from construction, the time will be critical to navigating and problem-solving issues along the route.

“They said we’ll share the street together and I’m hoping they’ll do that. We’ll do anything we can to make this project successful,” said Koley.

It’s not just semis and other challenges the streetcar route presents. Remember, a dedicated bike lane is here on Harney where the eastbound streetcar tracks would go.

In the last hour, the Omaha city council passed a resolution urging public works and the mayor to examine this pilot project, its data, and decide whether a bike lane and streetcar can co-exist here and if not, where the bike lanes should go.