Omaha streetcar bond proposal headed to City Council

Tuesday, the council will begin considering $360 million in bonds to pay for the project.
The public will be able to give input at meetings set for December.
Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 8:01 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Plans to build a streetcar in Omaha will get really serious beginning Tuesday.

That’s when an ordinance about how to pay the $360 million price tag goes before the City Council.

The item gets on the City Council agenda this week, but there will be no action because the public still needs to get their chance to comment on the plans. Because of Thanksgiving, that public hearing won’t take place until Dec. 6. The City Council will then vote on it a week later, on Dec. 13.

The vote would give the city the power to eventually issue $360 million in bonds to pay for the streetcar project.

It’s been so long since Omaha had a streetcar operating: It was 1955. Most of our memories of riding on one would be as a tourist, maybe on a recent visit to Kansas City or Portland or Tempe, Ariz.

That’s what city leaders are trying to capture — something to dazzle visitors, add to our transportation options, and lure young professionals to call Omaha home.

The line would go from 42nd and Farnam streets to downtown using Harney Street most of the way. It would loop around The RiverFront and head to the convention center on 10th Street before heading back again on Farnam Street.

That is the agreed-upon alignment; where it stops and a few other details are all part of the design phase.

Monday, the Omaha Streetcar Authority and MECA are considering a site at Eighth Street and Capitol Avenue to become the vehicle maintenance facility, where the streetcars would get fixed and maintained.

Right now, residents know it as the far corner of Parking Lot A.

Besides the bonds, the next step for the Streetcar Authority is to determine whether to make a combined order for six streetcars. and just because the city has permission doesn’t mean it will issue all of the bonds — and it will be done at different stages.

The city of Portland is ordering 11 replacements at the same time. Experts believe this could provide Omaha with a cost-saving measure to consider.

Remember: Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert has said the streetcar can be built without a tax increase, and that the taxes created from those who want to build along the route are expected to cover it.