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Cincinnati - March 2011

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Cincinnati — Final Streetcar Route Selected

Rail Transit Online, March 2011

The final alignment for the planned $128-million streetcar line between the downtown riverfront and the periphery of the University of Cincinnati has been released. The 4.9-mi. (7.9 km) route will have 21 stops serving major tourist attractions and other trip generators in the city's central business district, the Over-the-Rhine and Uptown areas and the university district. Tracks will run primarily along Main, Walnut, Race, Elm and Vine streets.

"This has been a very carefully considered process so that we maximize the streetcar's value in delivering people to businesses along the route," streetcar project manager Chris Eilerman told The Enquirer.

Construction will begin when clearance is received from the Federal Transit Administration, possibly as soon as this month.

Streetcar Funding in Jeopardy

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is expected to withdraw all state funding for the Cincinnati streetcar project because he doesn't believe it will achieve the promised economic benefits. Concurrently, an Ohio Transportation Review and Advisory Council staff report also recommended eliminating $51.8 million in previously-approved state grants for the streetcar because there wasn't enough money available to pay for all of Ohio's approved transportation projects.

A final decision won't be made by the council until Apr. 12, but Kasich has already said the facts won't change and efforts by Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory to convince him otherwise are futile. "I said, 'I'm not going to tell you not to try, but it's like torture,' " Kasich told The Cincinnati Enquirer, adding that the evidence he's seen doesn't support claims that the Ohio city would see benefits from streetcars similar to those achieved in Portland, Oregon. "What they do in Portland — we're not living in Portland," he told the Enquirer. "And by the way, I don't want to live in Portland."

The loss of state support will leave a $30-million gap in the streetcar's $128-million capital budget, possibly forcing the scheme to be abandoned. However, extensive studies have shown that completion of the 4.9-mi. (7.9 km) line from the downtown riverfront to the uptown area would create thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development.

Kasich, who took office in January but already suffers from a record low voter approval rating of 40 percent, told the Enquirer that he's "...a big believer in more of the big infrastructure projects that can improve productivity," and hopes to work with Mayor Mallory "...to figure out what other things we can do in Cincinnati." Meanwhile, although the Transportation Review and Advisory Council has recommended cutting projects in addition to the streetcar, it has added two highway expansion proposals totaling $7.7 million, both located in the congressional district formerly represented by Kasich.


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