Streetcar desired in Cincinnati after all, project to resume

Thu Dec 19, 2013 5:39pm EST
 
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By Kim Palmer

(Reuters) - Cincinnati's city council on Thursday voted to restart work on a $133 million streetcar project that had been suspended in the days after the new mayor, an opponent of the plan, took office.

The new plan approved by a 6-3 council vote will use private funds to help offset the annual operating costs for the streetcar, which is aimed at connecting urban communities.

"We're going to have a streetcar," Mayor John Cranley told a news conference before the council vote. Cranley had campaigned on stopping the project, which he said the city could not afford.

Council members earlier in December had voted to halt construction and commissioned an independent audit of the project, which has run up $33 million in costs since a ground breaking in February 2012.

The council voted to resume the plan after receiving a report from KPMG that said it would cost $80 million to $105 million to halt the project.

The plans call for a 3.6-mile (5.8-km) loop with 18 stops at a cost of about $133 million. Cincinnati faced a Thursday night deadline to resume the project or lose a $45 million contribution from the Federal Transportation Administration.

The city is paying the rest of the project.

In an agreement to help elevate yearly operating costs, the Haile U.S. Bank Foundation, a Cincinnati-based non-profit, committed $900,000 a year for 10 years and the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority agreed to fund the remaining yearly $1.88 million and $2.44 million in operating costs.

The streetcar plans originally called for a spur to connect the Ohio River banks to the University of Cincinnati, but $55 million earlier allocated to the project was withdrawn after Republican John Kasich was elected governor.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer in Cleveland; Editing by David Bailey and Richard Chang)