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Main Street Merchants Are Hoping That By 2022, Their Streetcar Construction Worries Will Be Over

Sewer upgrades, as well as actual work on the KC Streetcar expansion, are just getting started after a year of water and utility work on Main Street. However, several firms are still dealing with traffic delays and a lack of parking, despite the fact that they have years of work ahead of them.

Darren Matheson stared through Happy Rock Farms’ enormous plate-glass windows on Main Street at 38th Street. The humidity from his gardening store caused a thin film of moisture to form on his windows, giving the orange pylons on Main Street the appearance of hazy soldiers advancing through the mist.

“The cones have been in the same place for months,” Matheson explained. “They’ve modified the traffic flow a little bit, but it’s still terrible getting in and out.”

He went on to say, “You talk to our customers.” “They don’t want to go along Main Street.”

For almost three years, Happy Rock Farms has been in its current site. Matheson estimates that the epidemic and street construction combined have cost him 40 to 50 percent of his company.

“We’re not sure if we’ll be able to stay in this location because it hasn’t been very fruitful,” Matheson added. “We’ve experienced a drop in business in the last few months, right around the time they started digging.”

On and around Main Street, Kansas City and private companies have spent the previous year tearing up the pavement, replacing or upgrading utilities, adding new fire hydrants, and rerouting traffic. Each time a hole is patched, a new one appears.

It’s a $351 million project that’s causing local business owners a lot of grief, all for the purpose of laying 3.5 miles of track for the KC Streetcar to travel between Union Station and UMKC.

And those rails are still a long way off. The streetcar isn’t expected to start running until 2025.

What does the future hold for Main Street?

Water line construction and private utility upgrades are virtually complete, according to a spokesman for Kansas City Public Works as of late December, while sewer upgrades are just getting started.

In January, some preliminary construction on the streetcar’s infrastructure will begin, with a groundbreaking in the spring.

“Sewer upgrades will be significant. “Those are some really enormous pipes,” said Donna Mandelbaum, a representative for the Kansas City Streetcar. “It will look quite similar to what you see out there,” says the engineer, “but there won’t be 15 other utilities functioning in the same pit as the sewer.”

More lane closures, delays, and rerouting of automobile and pedestrian traffic will be part of the future work. However, project leaders claim that driving on Main Street will improve in the new year – to some extent.

Kansas City recently introduced a traffic control program aimed at easing drivers’ aggravation with road construction throughout the city. The policy, which went into force in December, states:

If no work is being done, traffic control devices must be removed after 48 hours.
Steel plates should be used to cover open excavations and should be embedded and level in the pavement.
Other traffic control devices should be kept at least 300 feet away from a work site and should not be placed on side streets.

What do business owners desire?

Jennifer Ferguson, owner of Boogie’s Midtown Tavern, said the work is inconvenient, but she is excited about the prospects the streetcar will provide.

She stated, “I don’t want my customers driving.” “I’d like it if they could take the streetcar.”

Ferguson also mentioned something that numerous other Main Street business owners said: the traffic does not deter her regular clients. Whatever the case may be, they will arrive. She is concerned, though, about their safety.

“I’m worried about some of my clients driving home,” she remarked. “Things change in ways you aren’t accustomed to.”

The city of Kansas City, according to Maggie Green of Kansas City Public Works, understands the frustrations of business owners.

“We’re well aware that this is a bittersweet process,” she explained. “This is incredibly frustrating and challenging for the businesses, for people driving down Main Street, and for people walking down Main Street while we’re in the middle of it.”

Green stated that the city was anticipating a mixed reaction to the construction. They put up signs throughout the corridor to let customers know which establishments are open, and they added shop owners and other stakeholders to the Upgrades on Main mailing list.

However, Alex Sommerkamp, the manager of Gro Room on East 37th and Main, said he was unaware of the outreach activities.

Sommerkamp has noticed an increase in accidents and a decrease in business since work began.

He remarked, “Every time we go outside, we witness someone driving on the wrong side of the road or swerving into the work zone.” “Plus, there’s no place to park.”

The construction is especially difficult for new consumers.

“They’re more likely to avoid coming in altogether because parking is difficult,” he explained.

Sommerkamp tells his existing customers where the best parking spots are “strategically.”

“However, carrying soil bags across a busy street to someone’s car is not a simple task,” he remarked. “In New York, people bring all kinds of items on the train, so it’s possible that some won’t mind, while others will shun it entirely.”

Even yet, Sommerkamp remains optimistic about the streetcar’s future on Main Street.

Sommerkamp expressed his optimism, saying, “I’m hopeful that it’ll be worth it in the end.” “In the coming years, we’ll see how it affects our business.” But, as far as I’m concerned, we’re here to stay.”