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Long night at city hall as Council discusses streetcar

Jay Hanselman

A standing room only crowd was on hand at Cincinnati City Hall Monday night as Council held a four-hour public hearing on the much debated streetcar project. 

City Manager Milton Dohoney spent an hour describing why the city is pursing the plan.

"We have not pursued it simply because it's a cool thing to do," Dohoney said.  "But because experts have all told us it's what we need to do, if we want to have a competitive advantage with regards to other communities."

Dohoney spent very little time on how city administrators plan to find the additional $17 million to construct the first phase of the project.  Dohoney is promising to outline the possible funding solutions in a memo the Council Members by the end of Tuesday.
He said it'll come from several sources, not just a single pot of money in the city's capital budget. 

Some Council Members suggested in their comments they understand the "why" for the plan.  They were seeking the "how" to fund it.

Dohoney also told Council the city has spent about $19 million dollars on the proposal to date and it would cost another $14 million to wind down the project if Council decided to stop the streetcar.  In addition, the city would have to return 38-million dollars to the federal government. 

More than 60 speakers offered comments on the plan and nearly all those were in favor of the project. 

Marilyn Wellingoff, who lives in Over-the-Rhine, is a supporter.

"This is an investment and a proven one by the successful streetcars in other cities," Wellingoff said.  "Now is the time to move forward not backward.  We've made a great start in revitalizing the city; let's not stop just now just because the costs have gone up since the beginning of the project.  It will never be cheaper than it is right now."

Others agreed saying the city should move forward and complete the project. 

Joyce Fields of College Hill is against the plan.

"The funds aren't there," Field said.  "And all these people who are for the streetcar act like this is going to save the whole city, is just unbelievable to me.  It's like pie in the sky and very unrealistic."

Manager Dohoney said the vision for the project hasn't changed.  That's to connect the Uptown with the Downtown and eventually add a neighborhood network of streetcars. 

He did say if the city built just the first phase and then planned to quit, he wouldn't recommend moving forward.