POST Online Media Lite Edition


First look at modern streetcar designs in Omaha, Neb.

Christian Fernsby |
The first phase of Omaha’s modern streetcar design has been completed and will be reviewed by the Urban Design Review Board (UDRB) this month.

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City code requires the Board’s review and approval of projects related to public buildings or streetscapes at the early stage of design for compliance with the City of Omaha Master Plan and urban design zoning requirements.

The Planning Department’s review of the 30% design has been completed and recommends approval to the UDRB.

The review includes conceptual designs for stations at the 16 stops planned along the streetcar route.

There will be 13 stops at the curb along Farnam, Harney, Capitol Avenue and 8th Street, and three stops in the median on Farnam Street between Midtown Crossing and the Blackstone District. The median stops will create a safer pedestrian crossing and slow traffic in the busy corridor.

This month, “Future Boarding Zone” signs will be installed along the route to identify where the streetcar stops will be located. The signs include a QR Code to learn more about the zones.

During the 30% design process, a recommendation was made to modify the route to end at 39th and Farnam on the west and 10th and Capitol on the north in the first phase of construction. The changes will allow the University of Nebraska Medical Center to complete an evaluation of a streetcar extension through campus and potentially to the new Saddle Creek campus.

“I’m certain the medical center would like to take advantage of the streetcar,” said Omaha Streetcar Authority Chairman Jay Noddle. “They’re very engaged in this and I think they’ll pick a route and determine their own funding plan.”

The stop at 10th and Capitol, rather than 10th and Cass allows for options for future extensions. The changes require approval from the Omaha Streetcar Authority.

The City of Omaha has applied for a $300,000 federal grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation to study an extension to North Omaha to connect riders to jobs, education and services, and create commercial and mixed-use developments and affordable housing along the route. The City will provide a 50% local match through a combination of funding and in-kind support.

The UDRB will also review the Vehicle Maintenance Facility design and Traction Power Substations (TPSS).

The Vehicle Maintenance Facility will be located near the South entrance of the CHI Health Center’s Lot A. The entrance to the Lot A parking lot will be relocated. Current MECA parking volumes will be maintained. The building also provides streetcar vehicle storage space. The Metropolitan Convention and Entertainment Authority (MECA) has approved the site.

Three Traction Power Substations will be built along the route to provide power to the streetcar. The TPSS locations are Turner Boulevard and Farnam (west side of Turner Boulevard), 24th Avenue and Farnam, (SE corner of intersection) and 16th and Douglas (northeast corner)

The substations will be concealed with landscaping, murals and brick facing. The TPSS at 16th and Douglas will be built into an existing city-owned parking lot.

The Farnam and Harney bridges over Interstate 480 will be replaced during construction of the modern streetcar. Both bridges are part of the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s (NDOT) previous plan to improve and replace bridges in Omaha. The NDOT will provide a portion of the funding for the bridge replacements as well as approve the design, which will include lighting, and pedestrian and bikeway features.

Subsequent reviews of the streetcar design will be at 60% and final design. The design components do not require City Council approval.

Bid documents for the purchase of the modern streetcars have been advertised. The Omaha Streetcar Authority plans to buy six cars. Bids will be opened January 24th with selection of the carmaker expected in February.

“Ordering the cars is a big step. We’re moving forward,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.

Bid highlights include the length, width and capacity of the cars, ADA required level boarding, and off-wire capability for up to 40% of the route.

Greater Omaha Chamber President and CEO Heath Mello pledged his 100% support of the streetcar. “If we’re going to be a city for the future, the modern streetcar will take us there,” said Mello “While it’s in the urban core, it will benefit the whole city.”

Planned streetcar stop locations:

39th and Farnam (western terminus)

37th and Farnam (center stop)

34th and Farnam (center stop)

Turner and Farnam (center stop)

26th Street (Farnam and Harney curb stop)

24th Street (curb stops on Farnam and Harney)

19th Street (curb stops on Farnam and Harney)

14th Street (curb stops on Farnam and Harney)

10th Street (curb stops on Farnam and Harney)

10th Street and Capitol (curb stop)

8th Street and Douglas (curb stop).

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