Key Cincinnati streetcar vote pushed to Wednesday

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The controversial streetcar project is one step closer to being delayed.

The newly created city streetcar committee voted Monday to pass 11 difference ordinances that would essentially pause the project.

The full council then passed the first readings of them.  If passed after another reading and final vote, a taxpayer-funded feasibility study would be done to investigate the cost to complete it compared to stopping it.

The first phase of the streetcar is 3.6 miles long.  It will travel on a loop from 2nd Street at the Banks to just north of Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine with 18 stops in between.

Project manager John Deatrick said Monday that the original $50,000 a day cost for work is likely closer to $100,000 a day.

Deatrick says the total cost of canceling the project could range anywhere from $107 million to $124 million. So far, the city has spent $5 million of $45 million in federal dollars.  If the project isn't completed, the city would have to repay that.

Inside council chambers for several hours on Monday, supporter after supporter stepping up to speak, urged council members not to kill the project or delay it.

"To become an important city, we need light rail.  This is the beginning of it.  I urge you, each of you, to vote for the streetcar, and not delay it," said one supporter.

It's no secret the streetcar is a hotly-debated topic.

"Dump this dead-weight streetcar, and let's get Cincinnati and Hamilton County moving forward," said one of the project's opponents.

If the project is canceled, the $45 million in federal funds will be gone.

Project leaders say it will cost, on average, $4 million a year to operate the streetcar system.  But, after all the money already spent on the project, some city leaders would like something to show for it.

"There are a number of us that believe a pause does mean cancel, which would be the end of the project.  It would mean that 10s of millions of dollars would be wasted.  I'm not here as a streetcar supporter," said council member PG Sittenfeld.

He continued, "I voted against allocations in the past, but we are where we are.  This money is spent.  This money is gone.  So, is it going to be wasted with nothing to show for it, or are we going to be able to get some return on our investment?"

But, after passing all ordinances on their first reading, Mayor John Cranley is confident about the project's future as the process moves forward.

"I believe on Wednesday we're going to have the votes that will immediately stop the spending on the streetcar," said Cranley.

There is another special meeting set for Wednesday, December 3 at 2 p.m., and then a final vote expected at the regular council meeting on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the FTA has frozen all federal funding for the streetcar until a decision is reached.

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