City Council gives final approval on additional streetcar funding

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati's city council officially gave the green light on Wednesday for additional $17.4 million towards the planned streetcar project with a 5-4 vote.

The council's budget and finance committee gave the first approval on Monday.

All nine council members are on the committee that voted 5 to 4 Monday to add the money. Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach, Wendell Young, and Yvette Simpson all voted in favor of the funding.

"This is going to be a transformative investment for us and I'm thrilled that we're going ahead," Laura Quinlivan told FOX19.

For project supporters, the vote was a major victory in a long line of battles against streetcar challengers.

"I look forward to saying, 'Well done Cincinnati'," Yvette Simpson said. "We finally finished what we started and it did not take us 20 years to do it."

Even opponents recognized the long uphill trek supporters have been on to see the project through.

"Even if you are wrong I do want to commend you for your ability to fight for what you believe in," Charlie Winburn stated in council chambers.

  • $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 committee also approved motions asking the city administration to provide the council and public with more accountability.

"It says something unfortunate that six years later council has to put pen to paper and say, 'By the way, we would like accountability, we would like transparency, we would like a concrete plan'," council member P.G. Sittenfeld argued during the meeting.  "I think it unfortunately reflects why we're here right now and not all taking a streetcar from Uptown to the Banks for a meal."

"There were reports before, but now we're actually to the phase where we're going to move towards construction so it becomes critically important that we have the milestones, we know that we are on budget, that if there are any problems that are emerging that they are clearly identified and that the public as well as city council are completely informed," Roxanne Qualls told FOX19 following the committee meeting.

The growing price tag for the planned 3.6-mile track and streetcar was estimated last month at $133 million.

Supporters say the streetcar will boost downtown business and tourism while some critics have said the city needs the money for other purposes.

Copyright 2013 WXIX. All rights reserved.