Kansas City sending group to Spain to learn about streetcars

Sunday, January 12, 2014 | 4:19 p.m. CST

KANSAS CITY — Kansas City is sending city employees to Spain on a fact-finding mission for its streetcar system.

Sherri McIntyre, public works director for Kansas City, said the trip is needed because the company selected for Kansas City's streetcars has its engineering headquarters in Spain. McIntyre and two other city engineers will be making the trip in February along with a consultant who has advised the city on the streetcar procurement.

"It's typical to go to the engineers and the manufacturer to finalize details," she told The Kansas City Star.

The trip, which involves four days in Spain, is estimated to cost $2,600 per person, which is coming from the city's streetcar fund.

McIntyre said the trip will allow for in-depth conversations about the vehicle's design, provide information on ways to customize the vehicles to Kansas City's demands and give them insights about maintenance and repairs.

Kansas City is buying four Urbos 3 platform vehicles built by CAF USA Inc., a subsidiary of the Spanish rail firm Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles. The vehicles cost $18 million. McIntyre said there is only one purely American streetcar manufacturer, and its vehicles didn't meet Kansas City's specifications.

City Manager Troy Schulte said he was not complaining about the trip because the alternative was to have 12 engineers from Spain come to Kansas City — at Kansas City's expense.

Sue Burke, a downtown property owner who has opposed the downtown sales tax and property tax increases to help pay for the $100 million streetcar system, calls the trip a waste of money. Burke said the vehicles will be assembled in Elmira, N.Y., and questions why the engineers can't get the information they need from there.

"Looking at how the streetcars operate in Europe has nothing to do with how they operate in Kansas City," she said.

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