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Cincinnati - November 2011

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Cincinnati — Voters OK Streetcar

Rail Transit Online, November 2011

By a very narrow margin, Cincinnati voters have rejected a ballot measure that would have blocked construction of a proposed streetcar line between downtown and the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

The referendum, generated by the local NAACP and small but vocal anti-rail, anti-tax groups, would also have stopped any type of rail transit planning for 10 years. The final tally was 51.5 percent against the ban to 48.5 percent in favor.

"We are elated, we are encouraged and we are very happy that Cincinnati can look forward to a progressive future with transportation options galore," Margaret McGurk, co-chair of the pro-streetcar Cincinnatians for Progress, told The Enquirer. But opposition leader Tom Luken indicated that majority voters weren't very smart. "I think the people got bamboozled again," he told The Enquirer. However, other election results seem to dispute that characterization.

Several new members of the city council who are solidly pro-streetcar were elected, giving the project a seven-vote majority on the nine-member council; previously the count was 4-4 with one abstention.
Design of the fully-funded line is nearing completion and construction could begin early next year, with revenue service perhaps starting in late 2013. Still to be resolved is a thorny dispute over who should pay millions of dollars in utility relocation costs, the city or the lines' owners, with the two sides reportedly still far apart.

Meanwhile, the City of Cincinnati has applied for a $56.8-million federal grant under the TIGER III (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program that would complete the originally planned four-mile (6.4 km) streetcar project from Uptown to the Riverfront. Segments at each of end of the line were eliminated last spring when the State of Ohio withdrew promised funding, leaving a 3.1-mi. (5 km), $95-million segment running from Fountain Square in central downtown to Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine.

However, the demand for Tiger III money far outstrips the available funds and Cincinnati will have some very tough competition. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on Nov. 15 that requests for $14.1 billion from all 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia had been
received, far exceeding the $527 million allocated by the Obama administration. TIGER I and TIGER II grants totaled $2.1 billion.


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