EXCLUSIVE: How will the streetcar affect traffic?

The streetcar route
The streetcar route

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - In 2016, the long-awaited, controversial streetcar is expected to start rolling through the streets of downtown Cincinnati.

By now, you've probably seen the cars and know they'll move passengers from Over-the-Rhine to The Banks, and everywhere in between. But, how will it impact you if you're trying to share the road?

"They shouldn't affect traffic dramatically. They carry more passengers than a bus, and they accelerate faster," said Project Executive John Deatrick.

Although its effects won't be dramatic, there will be changes to get used to.

The streetcar will stop at 18 stops on both sides of the street along the route downtown and that's where you'll notice some traffic changes. To get to those stops, the streetcar will catch an early green light at some intersections.

"The signal will come up for the streetcar. They'll get a few seconds head start and be able to make their turn, and then the green will come up for the other vehicles.  They get a little bit of a jumpstart," said Michael Moore, director of transportation and engineering for the city.

Another big change is how you'll be able to share the street with a streetcar.

Project leaders say just because there are tracks running through some of the lanes downtown, that doesn't mean that lane is just for the streetcar. In fact, you'll still be able to merge and ride right along with it like you normally would.

Project leaders say these vehicles will move with traffic. They will have the ability to move in excess of 40 miles per hour, but it won't move that fast.

"They're not going to be traveling that fast on the street.  They're going to be following traffic, following the traffic laws," added Deatrick.

Opponents to the project say it's still a bad idea to move the system with other vehicles.

"Most transit avoids regular streets. A subway's underground. The L's aboveground not interfering with traffic. This is so poorly thought out," said Tom Brinkman, chairman of COAST.

Project officials admit these traffic changes will be a learning curve, but they are confident people will adjust.

Moore says in some spots, parking spaces or a truck loading zone could be eliminated.  He adds that they will try to replace them, calling it a trade-off for the convenience of the streetcar.

Deatrick says he hopes work will start on the next phase of the project to Clifton not long after the first part is finished.

Streetcar project officials say as opening day gets closer, they'll be working to educate residents more about what you can expect as you move through downtown.

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