Heat puts KC Streetcar out of service for weeks.
Posted on 20th July 2023 at 09:44
KC Streetcar had to abruptly suspend service after a rail on the Main Street Bridge over Interstate 670 unexpectedly failed on Independence Day.
“Once we get through this weekend, we’ll have a really good idea on when we will be able to reopen service,” said Donna Mandelbaum with the Kansas City Streetcar Authority on Wednesday.
The repairs could take as long as three weeks because the new concrete that is being poured needs to be able to fully cure. Then, the system will need to be throughly tested before passengers can ride again along the 2.2 mile route.
What happened with KC Streetcar’s rail could be another indication of future impacts of climate change as it causes more severe weather, including extreme heat events.
“I think it could be a sign of things to come as physical infrastructure gets pushed closer to design limitations,” Susan Spierre Clark, an assistant professor of environment and sustainability at the University at Buffalo in Buffalo, New York, said in an email.
The failure of KC Streetcar rail is similar to other cases that Clark has seen across the country. In recent summers, there are instances where rail service has been canceled or had to operate at reduced speeds due to high temperatures. In 2021, excessive heat impacted passenger rail and transit operations in the Pacific Northwest.
“Extreme heat can cause railroad tracks to shift, either causing the need for repair or lower speeds as a precaution,” she said. “But it isn’t just heat that could cause those issues. Wildfires, floods, mudslides, coastal erosion, etc., all are predicted to become more frequent and potentially more severe in the coming decades due to climate change, all of which can cause disruptions in rail and transportation systems more generally.”
Kansas City streetcar running has been disrupted by heat damage to the rails
“The envelope of weather conditions that we could see is expanding due to what is being called as ‘global weirding,’ basically things are expected to get hotter, but also wetter, drier, more violent storms, etc.,” Clark said.
She added that when investing in new infrastructure, the focus should be on that which is adaptive to chaning conditions and scenarios rather than hardening it to withstand bigger and stronger events. This could lead to much more disruption when it fails.
“Instead if we think about investing in infrastructure systems that are designed to fail safely, we are better safe-guarding ourselves against a wide variety of scenarios we could be facing in the future, due to climate change but also unpredictable social or economic changes as well,” Clark said.
The line has now re-opened for normal service.
Tagged as: Kansas City
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