End of the road for Streetcar Project?

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Council met Monday to discuss funding needed to continue the streetcar.

The $133 million project is facing an estimated $17.4 million deficit.

City Manager Milton Dohoney says if the money is not approved the project would be terminated, unless the federal officials approved a scope change which he says is unlikely.

Dohoney came up with multiple funding options, which he recommended to the mayor and council in a memo dated April 30.

The options include:

  • $6.5 million from funds connected to projects around the Cincinnati Horseshoe Casino site.
  • $5.4 million from money originally set aside for the Music Hall project, which won't be needed until 2016.
  • $400,000 from money already budgeted for traffic signal replacement and improvements.
  • $500,000 from Cincinnati Water Works, which would help pay for water main work associated with the streetcar project.
  • Remaining $4.6 million from issuing General Capital debt, which would reduce money available to pay for economic development and housing projects by 3% over the next 20 years.

The City Administration recognized it is asking for approval before knowing if Messer would honor its initial low bid.

"Our choice is 'Do we go with where the country is going [with light rail]? Or do we try and play catch up later which will cost a lot more?" Dohoney said, addressing council Monday.

"I think I'm still weighing all the information," Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls told FOX19. "It's a major decision and whether it's a go or not go. Either way it will have serious impact."

Currently $17.4 million is the total amount in question, but it is also the added possibility of even more unknown costs down the road that had council members concerned.

"It's a very difficult position I think all of us are in," Councilman Chris Seelbach said. "We don't want this to be another example of the failure of the subway system but we also don't want to continue on a project that maybe in the end won't succeed no matter how much money we put into it."

"Is your testimony today that this number is the right number and will not move one dime?"Chris Smitherman questioned Dohoney Monday.

"I could not tell you that this project or any project would not move one dime between now and when it's actually completed," Dohoney responded.

Dohoney argues that because the utility work has been ongoing and they have already been going underground, the city has a level of certainty about what they will encounter during the project.

Currently the City Manager says eight percent of the project's budget is contingency money set aside for unforeseen costs.

"That's just always a major concern with any construction," argued council woman Yvette Simpson. "I do believe that delay often causes that so the quicker we're able to move forward with the decision the better we're going to be."

Smitherman agrees the decision should be made quickly, but for different reasons as an opponent of the project.

"Without the $17.4 million there is not a project. Why was there not a vote today?" he questioned.

"Because most of the members of council, not all but most of the members of council, still have a lot of questions and are weighing the decision," Qualls explained.

Charlie Winburn proposed going ahead and taking the vote but ultimately he did not have enough support.

Roxanne Qualls says she anticipates a vote on the matter by the end of the month. The next Budget and Finance Meeting is Scheduled for Tuesday, May 28.

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