BikeWalkKC position on Streetcar extension to the riverfront

The KC Streetcar Authority is currently studying a proposed extension to Berkley Riverfront Park. This would add streetcar tracks to the Grand Avenue viaduct, and important bicycle and pedestrian connection between Downtown and the riverfront. While there are some ideas for adding a new bike/ped path alongside the current viaduct, we are concerned that it may not get built right away or might take scared resources from other important bike/ped projects in the city. We provided this input to the folks leading the riverfront extension study, and are monitoring the project very closely.

 

TO: Tom Gerend, Executive Director, KC Streetcar Authority
FROM: Eric Rogers, Executive Director and Eric Bunch, Policy Director, BikeWalkKC
DATE: June 20th, 2017

RE: Streetcar Riverfront Extension Study

Please accept this letter as written input for the riverfront Streetcar extension study currently underway. BikeWalkKC staff was recently interviewed as a stakeholder by consultants working on the study, and this input is consistent with feedback provided to them.

BikeWalkKC is strongly supportive of all efforts to expand multi-modal transportation options like the Streetcar, and to develop the riverfront as a vibrant public space surrounded by a walkable mixed-use neighborhood. However, we remain concerned about the impact on the Grand Boulevard Viaduct’s ability to continue as a critical bicycle and pedestrian connection.

Our understanding is that while the consultant is developing preliminary concepts for how a bike/ped path could be retrofitted onto the viaduct, any such side path would not likely be included in the Streetcar extension project’s final engineering, funding, or construction. Instead, it would be left as a separate project to be funded, engineered, and constructed at a later date.

Not integrating bike/ped into the core project raises some serious concerns for us:

1. Timing. The Streetcar extension could open for service months or even years before the bike/ped facility is built, leaving a potentially long gap in service for the people who rely on the viaduct today.

2. Funding. The City could use funding that would otherwise go to other bike/ped projects in the city or the region. This project could cause the delay of other highly needed bike/ped projects.

3. Project Delivery. The City unfortunately has a disappointing track record for successfully managing and delivering bike/ped infrastructure projects in a timely manner, even when funding exists. The community would have low confidence in the city’s ability to build a bike/pad path after the fact.

For these reasons BikeWalkKC would not be able to support a Streetcar extension that did not include replacing bike/ped connectivity as a core part of the project. The side path should be open for service Day One when the Streetcar extension opens for service. Anything less would be a serious degradation in the city’s already sub-standard bike/ped system.

CC: Mayor Sly James, City Manager Troy Schulte, Councilmembers Katheryn Shields and Jolie Justus, KCATA CEO Robbie Mackinen, Port KC CEO Michael Collins