With Omaha’s downtown streetcar raising plenty of questions, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert brought out new numbers today insisting it’s already a success, that proposed development along the route is far better than first thought.


Mayor Jean Stothert, Omaha (R): “MuniCap's independent analysis projected a more conservative $2 billion over 15 years. The updated estimate prepared by the city's finance department has grown to $3.9 billion over the next 15 years, nearly double the MuniCap's estimate.”

Joe Jordan, NCN: “At the same time the cost of the streetcar has also increased, the original estimate was $306 million the new estimate $389 million.”

Jordan: “Mayor what are the chances in a year you come back and say that $389 million is now $440 million?”

Stothert: “The chances of it going up that much, what you stated, are very slim to nothing.”

Jordan: “But you wouldn't be surprised at 400 million?”

Stothert: “No. I think our goal right here is to keep it under $400 million and I think the $389 million is a good estimate right now. And we are nearly at 90 percent.”

In the meantime, Omaha State Sen. Mike McDonnell, a likely challenger to Stothert in next year’s mayor’s race, has been hitting the streetcar hard.

As News Channel Nebraska first reported, in a recent letter to Stothert, McDonnell called for the city to put the issue on the upcoming November ballot.

According to McDonnell, the streetcar is “either a tool for the future growth of the city as proponents suggest, or a financial boondoggle as opponents claim.”

Stothert: “The streetcar will not be paid by increased taxes.”

Jordan: “Sen. McDonnell said put the streetcar to a vote of the people, you've said no. Is that because you're concerned that a vote of the people would say we don't want the streetcar?”

Stothert: “No. We're essentially using revenue bonds or lease purchase bonds, the same type of bonds we used to build parking garages. Should we put, Sen. McDonnell, every parking garage on the ballot. The $400 million new park downtown, on our property, that wasn't put to a vote, or the baseball stadium that we're getting 22,000 to 25,000 people there for every game, that wasn't put on a ballot. And because Sen. McDonnell wants to run for mayor and is making an issue now, we are not going to stop and take a whole different direction. So no, we are not putting it on the ballot.”

Jordan: “Is Sen. McDonnell getting under your skin on this issue?”

Stothert: "No, he does not get under my skin. But I I don't know why he doesn't understand what we have said to him multiple times. This is not going on the ballot.”

One year ago, a poll said 68 percent of Omaha voters oppose the streetcar, 19 percent are for it and 13 percent unsure. It’s a poll that, according to the mayor, is just not true.