Should an unexpected cost pop up for the city of Cincinnati's streetcar project, there soon may not be any money to pay for it.
Construction is well underway on the project budgeted at $148 million. The track work is more than halfway finished.
Tuesday was a landmark day for the project as its official logo was unveiled. But in a meeting immediately after that announcement, it was also revealed that money for construction emergencies may be dwindling quickly.
In less than two years, the first riders will hop on the streetcar as it starts sharing part of downtown city streets. Tuesday was a momentous day in the project as the first commemorative rider cards went on sale.
"Fares on streetcars and other trains are not the same as on buses. You don't have a fare box, usually, on a streetcar,” said Sallie Hilvers, spokesperson for Metro.
Without that, fares will be collected on an honor system. Inspectors will randomly check for paid riders, and could fine them if they're hopping on for free. The fare money will help generate operating money for the system.
"I think we're in pretty good shape. So far, we are on time and under budget,” said council member David Mann.
But a year removed from heated debates that eventually got the project back on track, things could be a bit derailed.
"We need to address this issue now,” said council member Kevin Flynn.
Some new numbers revealed to council's major transportation committee Tuesday by streetcar brass say not everything may be going as well as it seems.
"They've used very conservative principles for estimating, and they're very comfortable that we're going to finish under-budget without using all the contingency money. Until something changes, I'm going to go with that,” said Mann.
A $9,713,111.22 million contingency fund is part of the project has been dwindling. If you take away the money that's been used, expenses still pending and other expense estimates, you're left with only $80,443.66.
"We need to address it now and reduce our expenses so we can have that contingency for the unexpected,” Flynn said.