Omaha streetcar, where's the money coming from?

Posted at 6:13 PM, Mar 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-28 19:15:06-04

An effort to drive Omaha into the future or a trendy expense that the city does not need? A plan to put a streetcar in Omaha remains a hot topic.

One plan would put a line from TD Ameritrade Park in downtown running through Old Market then west to the Nebraska Medical Center in Midtown.

City leaders and many residents want to know who will foot the roughly $150 million dollar bill.

While some say the city should focus on other things such as repairing roads, city planners say this is the best way to develop downtown.

“It’s a nice idea but it’s not a practical one,” said Omaha resident Woody Davis who has concerns about a proposed streetcar, “if it’s tax-payer funded, let’s use that money to fix the roads.”

It’s a concern heard at city hall to, Councilman Garry Gernandt said he likes the project from the development side but needs to look at the facts and figures first.

“Due to the cost, how the financial structure is going to be put together,” said Gernandt.

Council president Ben Gray said he’s seen the proposals from years past and doesn’t have much optimism with this project.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Gray.

Gray said he’s heard pushback from the project saying the city should be spending the money elsewhere. 

“What I’ve heard from my constituents is that it’s too expensive and we need to be fixing streets first,” said Gray.

However Gray says the money to fund this project will mostly come from the federal government through grants specifically for transportation items such as the streetcar.

Omaha long-range planning manager Derek Miller said federal money should cover roughly 80-percent of the project, and the city would pick up the remaining 20-percent.

“We don’t have a bucket of money lying around city hall that we are going to tap into that we are going to pay for a streetcar instead of roads,” said Miller.

Those who live closest to the streetcar line would pay the most said Miller but points to the benefits it brings out way the costs.

“The value that it brings within 3 blocks on the streetcar line we’ll capture that value that it brings to it,” said Miller.

The operating costs are roughly $7-million dollars a year which the city would have to pay for.

Miller said the city will hold public discussions about this project during the summer and then make a recommendation to the Mayor. Miller stresses the proposals can change depending on feedback from the public.

This proposal should go to the city council in October.


However if approved, Miller said it could take years before it's finished.