Cincinnati — Utility Relocation Dispute May Stall Streetcar
Rail Transit Online, September 2011
A clash between the city and its public utilities over who should pay the cost of relocating subterranean pipes and cables is threatening to delay the start of streetcar construction.
The two sides have been holding talks for nine months but have failed to reach agreement, leaving a deficit of over $30 million for utility relocation; the city's $95-million budget for the project includes nothing for utility work. The water, gas, telephone and sewer companies have balked at paying the entire cost.
The negotiations have included attempting to resolve a dispute over which lines must actually be moved. "We're trying to make sure we do this in a way that's not busting the budget of
the project," streetcar project manager Chris Eilerman told the Business Courier. In the past, city officials have said they hoped to cover utility work with cost-sharing agreements and by reducing the overall price of the streetcar.
Meanwhile, the project's opponents, who have qualified a November ballot measure to block the streetcar, are using the utility dispute as part of their campaign, alleging that the cost may be passed on to ratepayers. But the electric company has already said it won't do that and the other firms have indicated they would take the same position. Although Ellerman said he is confident an agreement can be hammered out, all of the utilities have said any deal must include money from the city.