Streetcar may have lost operating funds

Streetcar construction on Thursday reached downtown's Central Business District. (FOX19)
Streetcar construction on Thursday reached downtown's Central Business District. (FOX19)

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The Cincinnati streetcar project may be on time and on budget, but federal funding to operate it could be in trouble.

City Councilmember Kevin Flynn, who at one time had been an opponent of the street car, became one of its champions. That was because federal transportation officials promised him that Cincinnati would get a $5 million operating grant for the street car, but now that funding appears to be in doubt.

The OKI regional council of governments gave the transit authority's application for federal funding a poor rating. OKI says the project is not cost effective and not a regional priority

Councilmember Flynn says the game is not over.

"I'm not giving up on the federal government's funding we have a call scheduled this week. We're going to be holding their feet to the fire," says Flynn.

Council is also looking at sources to fund streetcar operations, but not from city coffers, according to Flynn.

"There may be other pots of money within the city that we have to tap as we're going, but the

general operating budget is one that I want to avoid."

Councilmember Christopher Smitherman, a long-time opponent of the project, says the solution is simple.

"They're going to have to stop the project ultimately because they're not going to layoff police

officers, we're not going to layoff firefighters, we're not going to layoff sanitation workers. We're not going to go into our general fund a dime to operate the streetcar so the streetcar should sit there, in my opinion, until the operational dollars are clear."

Smitherman says he's always considered the streetcar to be a bad investment.

"This is a real big wrong decision and the concept that the streetcar supporters had … if we build it they will come is not panning out.

"Even the federal government is doing the moon walk away from $5 million," said Smitherman.

Supporters remain optimistic as gift cards for streetcar rides become available next month.

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