OMAHA, Neb. — A new organization has launched an effort to build public support for an Omaha streetcar.

The members of Modern Streetcar Advocates are pushing to create the city’s first modern streetcar line that would go through midtown and downtown Omaha, the Omaha World-Herald reported .

The city’s public conversation about the project had gone quiet since spring, when it was a popular topic in Omaha’s mayoral race. Some viewed a streetcar as an expensive project that Omaha wouldn’t use and would take city money away from other needs, such as street repair and maintenance.

The advocate group says much of the streetcar opposition is based on a lack of information.

“A lot of people are really enthusiastic about the idea of a streetcar here in Omaha,” said Jay Lund, a principal of GreenSlate Development and a leader of Modern Streetcar Advocates. “But some people have formed an opinion about the streetcar without having access to any information.”

The group has recently launched a website with studies that led to the concept of a streetcar, success stories from other cities and projected economic benefits. The group is working with Omaha marketing firm Emspace.

“It’s like any political issue,” Lund said. “You hear a loud, more vocal minority. We think there’s a large, silent majority that believes this is a good idea.”

A study done for the city last year estimated that it would cost $156 million to build and equip a streetcar line from TD Ameritrade Park downtown to midtown. It would cost about $7.5 million a year to operate the line.

Mayor Jean Stothert expects to receive the results of that study later in the year. If a streetcar is feasible, Stothert would then appoint a committee to study streetcar financing.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com