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SORTA Board appoves agreement language Cincinnati opposes

Jay Hanselman

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) is moving ahead with the process to apply for an $11 million federal grant to help build the Cincinnati Streetcar system.   

A cooperative agreement will govern how the two agencies spend the federal money during the streetcar project.  

But the SORTA Board has approved language in a document the city does not want included.

The concern involves a section about the local matching funds for the grant.  SORTA wants the phrase "from sources other than the transit fund" included, to protect money for the Metro bus system if the streetcar construction project experiences cost overruns.  

Karl Schultz is a SORTA Board member.

“Just given the way things have gone, it’s been an uneasy feeling as to what would happen,” Schultz said.  “Because our responsibility here is SORTA, and that’s what
basically came out in the conversation , what’s the center of gravity, what’s our focus.”

The city wants that phrase removed.  Mayor Mark Mallory has said no transit dollars will be used for the streetcar project.  

The issue started a couple years ago when Cincinnati used money from the transit fund for city streetlight.  SORTA filed a lawsuit claiming the money could only be spent on Metro bus operations.  That court action is still pending even though Mallory has requested the transit agency drop the lawsuit.

SORTA is the designated recipient of federal funds and identified for the streetcar project with the City of Cincinnati as the sub-recipient of the funds.  

In May 2011, the SORTA Board approved an intergovernmental agreement with the city to disburse federal funds for the project.  An amendment is now being negotiated since Cincinnati has received more federal funding for the project since the original agreement was implemented.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.