The newly appointed acting director of the Omaha Streetcar Authority met with board members Monday for the first time.
Rick Gustafson made the trip to Omaha from Portland, Oregon, after being hired last month as acting manager. Board members hope his expertise will help move the ambitious tram project forward.
The House of Greater Omaha provides the money for Gustafson’s salary.
By creating a streetcar board that incorporates Metro, Omaha’s transit agency, Gustafson said the streetcar board has already taken a critical step.
“A lot of times between development interests and transit interests, you can have different points of view,” Gustafson said. “You created this cooperative board with the real opportunity to work together to advance the transit agenda and the Omaha (development) agenda.”
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The transit consultant also shared next steps for the council, including finalizing designs, determining the location of a vehicle maintenance facility and developing a public communications strategy. .
“It’s very important to establish how you’re going to run the business to start with,” Gustafson said. “It will be an interesting and hopefully fun ride for you to go through the process of putting together a project like this.”
Gustafson was previously a partner at Shiels Obletz Johnsen, a project management consulting firm based in Seattle and Portland, Oregon. He has experience directing streetcar operations in Portland and has consulted on streetcar projects across the country.
As announced by Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert in January, the streetcar is proposed to operate along a 3-mile route using 5.5 miles of track. The line is expected to run along Farnam and Harney Streets from 10th Street to 42nd Street and along 10th Street between Harney and Cass Streets.
The cost to build and launch the system is estimated at $225 million, but because federal guidelines provide for a 35% contingency in the event of unforeseen costs, the city would need to raise $306 million.
The city plans to issue special revenue bonds and private placement bonds to pay for construction of the system. Buyers of these bonds will be repaid using money generated from a tax-raised financing district that will run along the streetcar route.
The Streetcar Authority was created this spring to oversee the design, construction and eventual operation of the tram.
The board is made up of seven members: three nominated by the mayor and approved by the city council, three nominated by Metro Transit’s CEO, and one community member nominated by the Greater Omaha Chamber.
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