The Kansas City Streetcar is the first transit project nationally to achieve the top environmental design award for sustainable infrastructure. It is the 17th project overall to win the award.
The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) announced the Envision Platinum award last week in Washington, D.C. The streetcar is owned by the City of Kansas City, MO and managed by the Kansas City Streetcar Authority.
“We are honored that Kansas City is being recognized for its sustainable practices,” said Kansas City Mayor Sly James. “The KC Streetcar showcases sustainability, which is a guiding principle across many levels of our city’s operations.”
The Kansas City Streetcar was developed to support the city’s downtown revitalization after voters approved funding through local taxes in 2011. The area within two blocks on either side of the streetcar route is home to 65,000 employees and 4,600 residents; and more than 10 million people visit destinations of interest in the corridor annually. Since the streetcar project was announced, the area has seen more than 40 development projects totaling about $1.8 billion in economic activity, and ridership has substantially exceeded expectations.
The Kansas City Streetcar Authority, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, Mid-America Regional Council, Jackson County, Kansas City Downtown Transportation Development District, and HDR (the lead planning and design firm) partnered on the streetcar project design over a two-year period. The design was completed in March 2014 and the streetcar opened to the public in May 2016.
“Public transit is the type of infrastructure that inherently promotes sustainability,” said William Bertera, president and CEO of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. “Providing mobility options and reducing congestion improves quality of life and strengthens cohesion within a community. The Kansas City Streetcar has incorporated additional sustainability features throughout its planning and design — not only in the physical design features, but in its strategy for sustainable growth and economic development, and long-term management of stakeholder processes and community relationship-building.”
The ISI Envision rating system measures sustainability in infrastructure projects in five categories: quality of life, leadership, natural world, resource allocation, and climate and risk. These contribute to the positive social, economic and environmental impacts on a community during the planning, design and construction of infrastructure projects.
The Kansas City Downtown Streetcar project scored highest in the areas of quality of life, resource allocation, leadership and climate resiliency.
The project was designed and constructed to minimize waste generated by the project, to reuse or divert waste from landfills, and to implement green infrastructure solutions where possible. Construction materials made of recycled content were used, and construction waste was limited by reusing and recycling construction materials when practicable. For example, approximately 47 percent of the Singleton Yard contains recycled content and nearly 90 percent of the Singleton Yard construction waste was diverted from the landfill. Additionally, all 845 tons of steel used for the streetcar tracks were made with recycled metal scrap. The project team also took several measures to minimize the amount of excavated material that had to be taken off-site. Concrete removed during construction (from sidewalks, driveways and pavement) was crushed into recycled aggregate and reused in project construction, and all scrap metal was recycled.
The planning and design also considered water management and stormwater runoff for both the Singleton Yard and the streetcar tracks. Strategies to control erosion, minimize post-development site runoff and encourage groundwater recharge were implemented. The post-development stormwater runoff levels are below pre-development levels.
The Envision evaluation also noted the project its efforts to connect downtown Kansas City and improve local circulation, for supporting local and regional economic development goals, strengthening downtown districts and urban centers, and creating an environment that will be sustainable over time. The system connects to other regional transit services, integrating with bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and providing an alternative to automobiles in the downtown area.
The project also scored high in climate and risk due largely to the system’s resilient design for winter weather.
“Kansas City’s streetcar project has all the hallmarks of a sustainable endeavor that will truly thrive,” said Joe Drimmel, HDR area manager. “HDR designed the streetcar as a fully integrated transportation system to support the city’s focus on Main Street as a key corridor for sustainable economic development and to foster a sense of community and identity.”