Streetcar supporters rally downtown

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Supporters of the Cincinnati Streetcar project say they're not backing down. They made that very clear on Monday at a rally downtown.

A financial deadline is set for midnight on Thursday, with $45 million in federal funding on the line.

Since the streetcar work paused earlier this month, supporters have worked to gather signatures to take the project to the polls.

"We've blown past our initial requirement of 5,700, and well on our way towards that goal of 12,000," said Ryan Messer with Believe in Cincinnati.

But, this Thursday, $45 million in federal funding in on the line, hinging on restarting the work, something opponents hope doesn't happen.

"Once the federal government pulls the money, it's gone.  That's what we're hoping," said Tom Brinkman of COAST.

If the work doesn't restart, mayor John Cranley doesn't see a reason for the issue to go to the voters, and only sees one way to fund the gap.

"That would require another $45 million for the project, which would only come from tax increases," said Cranley.

Last week, Cranley tasked supporters to find money to cover operating costs.  That number is said to be about $80 million.

On Monday, FOX19 obtained this letter, signed by six council members, including Kevin Flynn and David Mann.  Both voted to pause work on the streetcar.  In it, a request for information to make funding those operating costs more manageable.

"I think it's a commitment on the part of all six of us to try to work through a solution that will fund the streetcar, that will have a combination of federal dollars and private dollars," said council member Yvette Simpson (D).

If the money from the FTA is taken away, Messer says he's hopeful the feds will side with supporters.

"I believe they understand this is a valuable, important resource for the future of Cincinnati, and I believe they'll stick with us," said Messer.

City council has a meeting set for Wednesday afternoon, and a special session set for Thursday at 2 P.M. to talk about the streetcar.  No public comment will be held on Thursday.

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