City Council votes to resume streetcar project

Published: Dec. 19, 2013 at 5:56 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 20, 2013 at 2:57 PM EST
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Streetcar Rails have been put down outside of Music Hall
Streetcar Rails have been put down outside of Music Hall
Cincinnati City Council members David Mann and Kevin Flynn and Mayor John Cranley address the...
Cincinnati City Council members David Mann and Kevin Flynn and Mayor John Cranley address the media Thursday at City Hall.

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A divided Cincinnati City Council voted 6-3 Thursday to resume the construction of the city's controversial streetcar project.

The vote happened after Mayor John Cranley and Councilman Kevin Flynn announced that a deal had been struck to get the project going again.

Flynn said at a City Hall news conference that the Haile Foundation and other private supporters will support the shortfall of the streetcar operations so it does not impact the city's operating budget. He said they've committed $900,000 a year for 10 years or $9 million total.

Flynn said that he had signed documents from the Haile Foundation, guaranteeing that money to the city.

"That's a huge commitment," he said to applause. "This is not the end."

Flynn, who opposed the streetcar with Cranley, was the deciding vote. After abstaining from a vote earlier Thursday by council's streetcar committee on resuming the project, Flynn voted for it during the full council meeting.

Flynn was joined by members David Mann, P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young. Members Christopher Smitherman, Charlie Winburn and Amy Murray voted against it.

Cranley said he still opposes the project and the overwhelming number of citizens agree with him.  But even before the official vote, he acknowledged that council decided to continue the project. He said the city's future involves much more than one issue.

"We cannot spend all of our time and energy on this one issue when we have too many other challenges to address," he said.

Cranley said he will make sure the streetcar doesn't jeopardize basic services, including bus service. He said the city won't allow the Southwest Ohio Transit Authority, an organization that oversees the region's Metro bus service, to cut bus routes and drivers.

SORTA's board voted Tuesday "to endorse the concept of assuming responsibility for the operating costs associated with the Cincinnati streetcar."

The vote happened just in time to save $45 million in federal funding for the project. If there was no decision by 11:59 p.m. Thursday, the city would have lost the money.

"We commend the leadership of Cincinnati for moving forward on a project that holds the real promise of transforming Cincinnati communities and accelerating economic growth in the region," Peter Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Authority said.

"These are the benefits that the U.S. Department of Transportation saw when we chose to invest nearly $45 million in the city's bold vision.  Now, we can all get back to work as partners to get the streetcar project done."

Cranley met with Rogoff last week in Washington.

The Haile Foundation's full name is the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation. It says it's "an independent family foundation dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for residents in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky."

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