Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Last Call For A Streetcar Named Retired

Something funny happened on the way to Cincinnati Mayor-elect John Cranley's destiny to kill the city's streetcar project:  the painful reality of cold hard mathematics.

The total cost of cancelling Cincinnati's streetcar could run as high as $125 million, just $8 million less than the estimated cost to complete it, according to the project manager.

The $133 million project faces the threat of cancellation when mayor-elect John Cranley takes office next month; killing the streetcar was Cranley's top campaign promise.

Streetcar project manager John Deatrick outlined the cost of cancellation at a special session of City Council's Budget and Finance Committee this afternoon. The costs include:
  • $32.8 million spent so far which will not be returned
  • $30.6 million to $47.6 million to close down the project
  • $45 million in lost federal funds

Whoops.  As such, suddenly the support Cranley had on the incoming city council to nuke the project is a bit on the wanting side.

Cranley had six anti-streetcar votes on the new nine-member council. But one member said yesterday that he no longer supports stopping construction. 
It feels neither prudent nor fiscally responsible to scrap the whole thing,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said. 
Sittenfeld said the possibility that the city won’t have to pay an estimated $3.5 million to $4.5 million in annual operating costs helped influence his change of mind. He said fares and sponsorships will partly cover those costs.
Sittenfeld also supports creating a special improvement district to pay for the rest of the operating costs. That plan would require property owners along the route to pay higher taxes than other city-property owners. Sixty percent of the affected owners would have to agree to the plan in order for the district to be created.

That's an idea I actually agree with, and it seems like a very good compromise.  Indeed, it seems after backing Cranley for Mayor, the Cincinnati Enquirer is now warming up to the project.

It seems the reports of the streetcar project being dead are greatly exaggerated.

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