The Cincinnati Streetcar project is back on track. Last Wednesday, the city council voted to give it a $17.4 million infusion of cash, bringing the total cost of the project to $133 million from the original $110 million.
On June 24, the city council’s budget and finance committee approved the extra funding for the first phase of the project with a 5-4 vote. But for it to become official, the council also had to vote on the ordinance–which it did on June 26. As the nine council members comprise the budget and finance committee, the vote was the same: 5-4 in favor of the financing. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young voted for the extra money, while P.G. Sittenfeld, Christopher Smitherman, Pam Thomas and Charlie Winburn voted against. On Monday, the council also voted on a motion to ensure greater transparency for the streetcar project. It passed with a 5-3 vote, Thomas abstaining.
The funding follows an additional $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation through its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grant program last week. Secretary Ray LaHood, in a letter to Mayor Mark Mallory dated June 19, warned that the DOT will take back the $35.9 million in previous funding if the project is not completed, also saying the department is unable to offer any additional funding. The letter contained several conditions for the extra money, among them that the council identify no less than $17.4 million in non-federal funds to cover additional project costs.
The $17.4 million will come from a plan recommended by Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. and issued in April. It includes $5.4 million borrowed from money set aside to renovate the Music Hall, funds not needed until 2016; $400,000 from the traffic signal replacement fund; $500,000 from the water main relocation and replacement fund; issuing $4.6 million in general capital debt; and $6.5 million from infrastructure projects around the Horseshoe Casino.
Now, all that remains is to see if the additional money is enough. It was supposed to help cover the gap between the $44.6 million the city expected construction to cost and the almost $71 million bid by Messer Construction. Messer’s bid, the lowest of three proposed to the city, is now expired. But with the approval of the funding, Dohoney can now begin negotiations for another bid.
The first phase of the Cincinnati Streetcar project calls for the construction of a 3.6-mile track. It will connect Findlay Market in the historic Over-the-Rhine to the Banks redevelopment project in the Riverfront area.
Photo credits: City of Cincinnati