An Inside Look at the KC Streetcar’s Construction

Posted on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020 by
In Construction Engineering, tagged in
kc streetcar construction

Before working at our firm, John McCanless, a Senior Project Representative at Affinis, helped perform construction observation on the KC Streetcar project. The line was constructed in downtown Kansas City, Missouri and spans approximately 2.2 miles. It opened in 2016 and has quickly made its mark on the community. We recently interviewed John to learn more about the project and his role.

Tell me about your role on this project.
I primarily performed QA/QC on the construction of the overhead catenary system. It consists of the bases, poles, and other components that hold the overhead live line in place and ultimately powers the streetcar. In addition, I also performed QA/QC duties on the rail slab construction, streetcar stop facilities, and restoration.

What were some of the challenges?
With the streetcar line running through the heart of downtown Kansas City, traffic control was very important to keep workers and the public safe. There was a lot of heavy equipment and construction that was happening very close to buildings, vehicles, and pedestrians.

Another major challenge was utilities. Facilities had to be relocated, replaced, and removed throughout the project limits. In downtown Kansas City, we were dealing with the greatest concentration of utilities in the smallest area in the entire metro. The scale and scope of the project was something that I don’t believe had ever been attempted in Kansas City before, and we were working with a mode of transportation that most of us hadn’t prior to this.

How did you help to solve them?
Through open communication and diligent planning, these challenges were met. The cooperation between numerous engineering firms, city departments, contractors, and staff led to a very successful planning, design, and construction process.

What did you find to be most interesting about the project?
I found the amount of planning and coordination that occurred to construct the amazing streetcar line we have today to be the most interesting. This was a new mode of transportation that many of us had never dealt with/constructed before, so learning about it was definitely exciting.

What were some of your biggest takeaways/lessons learned?
The largest takeaway was that no matter the size of the project or its complexity with solid planning, engineering, design, and construction…anything is possible.

How do you feel this project moves Kansas City forward?
I think anyone that’s been downtown in the last 4 years can see the impact the streetcar has had. The area’s vibrancy was already coming back when construction was underway. However, the streetcar’s completion has kicked it into hyperdrive.

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