Streetcar Audit: Up to $80M to cancel, $105 to complete

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A newly released audit says it could cost up to $80.1 million to cancel the streetcar project and up to $105.7 million to complete it.

The city hired independent consulting firm KPMG to compare the cost of completing the current phase of the project vs. canceling it.

KPMG says it could be between $50.3 million to $80.1 million to cancel the streetcar.

To finish construction on the current phase, it could be between $104.6 million to $105.7 million. The city has already spent $33.9 million on the project. KPMG says it will cost an additional $68.9 million to finish plus $1.6 million to $2.5 million in delay costs.

The audit, which was released Wednesday morning, also evaluated operating and maintaining costs for the next 30 years.

According to KPMG, the estimated net cost to operate the streetcar would be $1.88 million to $2.44 million annually, after considering various revenue sources such as fares and advertising.

This is a total of $56.4 million to $73.2 million for the next 30 years.

More than 100 people signed up to speak to council for an allotted two minutes each on Wednesday, all expressing their feelings one last time for the city's paused streetcar project.

"This is nothing but an amusement park ride," said one woman.

"Give us something we can live for," one supporter said.

For about four hours, arguments just like that, back-and-forth, for and against the streetcar could be heard in city council chambers.

"The neighborhoods are really in terrible shape. We need something done out there, not a funny little car to ride down," said Jim Kiefer who lives in West Price Hill.

But, that "funny little car" is an income for some of the speakers who showed up to address council on Wednesday.  Many of them were ironworkers who worked on the streetcar until construction was halted.

"I don't know what to do or what to say about it but I wish you would start the streetcar back so I can go back to work," said Scott Heard, one of those workers.

"You guys come to work, you have a job. We don't have a job. We're begging you to please give us our jobs back," said Willie Carter, another worker on the streetcar project.

But, on the heels of Wednesday's cost analysis audit results and its numbers to cancel versus complete, it doesn't add up for some project opponents.

"I'm not convinced this is a project that we can afford. I'm not convinced that it's a project that represents a good use of federal and local dollars," said Kelley Cowdrey, one of those opponents.

A deadline set for Thursday puts those federal dollars at risk. The youngest speaker to show up Wednesday pleaded with council not to let that happen.

"Tomorrow, I ask you to vote for my future. Please vote yes for the streetcar," said Sophie Hammons, a fourth grader at Fairview-Clifton German Language School.

The project's future is up for a vote on Thursday at 2 p.m. after the Streetcar Committee holds a special meeting in the morning. Mayor John Cranley does have veto power on that vote, but council members can override it if they have six votes at a future meeting.

Unless there is a decision by 11:59 p.m. Thursday, $45 million in funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will be lost for the streetcar.

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