Streetcar debate continues awaiting state funding vote

Despite the ongoing streetcar project debate, there is still plenty of support in city hall for the project. On the same token, not everyone is hopping onboard the streetcar support bus headed to Columbus Tuesday.

"I think it's a wonderful thing that people want to try and try and try again," City Councilman Charlie Winburn said. "But I believe Governor Kasich has indicated that he was not going to fund the Cincinnati Streetcar and he's basically saying 'It's over.'"

"It's not over," Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan countered, sitting in her office down the hall.

The streetcar split is still going strong in City Hall as some city representatives prepare to head to Columbus Tuesday to show support for the project.

"The streetcar is going to bring us private investment, more than a billion dollars," Quinlivan said. "We are not going to get that investment any other way."

Tuesday a state transportation board will be deciding whether or not to move forward with more than 50 million dollars in funding for the project.

"I sure hope we get our money from the state," Quinlivan admitted. "But if we don't, I believe we should do this project anyway because we need to grow our tax base."

"It's time now," Winburn disagreed. "They need to pack their bags and let's take a look at Winburn's downtown Cincinnati trolleys."

Councilman Winburn has proposed his own plan instead of the streetcars, while hoping to use some of the same funding sources.

"I'm requesting that we purchases 15 green, movable, downtown trolleys that will be free for the citizens of Cincinnati modeled after Cleveland," he explained.

Quinlivan, however, believes trolleys are no match for the streetcar plan.

"If they have a better idea of how to grow our downtown and get tens of thousands of people to move to the city of Cincinnati, hey, bring it forward, but we haven't seen it," she said.

The councilwoman says she will still be pushing forward on the project despite whatever news comes out of Columbus Tuesday.

"To me this is absolutely the most important thing we can do to revitalize our city," she said.

While a number of fellow council members are waiting to hear what comes out of Columbus to comment, Leslie Ghiz remains firmly against moving forward with the project while Roxanne Qualls, the Vice Mayor remains firmly in support and will be headed to Columbus Tuesday.

The project's manager, Chris Eilarman says currently they have completed 35 percent of the design and expect to reach 65 percent completion within the next few weeks.

He says they are also in ongoing talks with utility providers to discuss the logistics of the project.

Eilarman says they have also released the details on where the streetcar would stop, listing 22 different locations on their website.

He says they have been given the go-ahead by local support and federal financial support in the form of $25 million, which he says means they will keep the planning in full swing despite whatever happens in Columbus Tuesday.

"We understand what's going on at the state and we're looking to see how that's going to impact us going forward," Eilarman said. "But it's certainly not the only component to the project and it's a project that we continue to move forward on."

Eilarman says with many community members coming forward in support of the project, it would be premature to halt the planning process.

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