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Cincy Council ready to approve additional streetcar money

City of Cincinnati

Cincinnati Council is ready to give city administrators an additional $17.4 million to build the first phase of the much debated streetcar project.  

The Budget and Finance Committee approved the extra money Monday with a 5-4 vote.  The full Council will consider it Wednesday.  

The additional funds are coming from a variety of sources including other capital accounts and more bonding.  

Council Member Yvette Simpson remains supportive of the streetcar.

“It’s a great project for the city,” Simpson said.  “When we get to the point that we’re ready to cut the ribbon, I look forward to saying well done Cincinnati, we finally finished what we started and it did not take us 20-years to do it.”

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls also voted in favor of the additional streetcar funding.

“While I remain a supporter, it is with the recognition that it is time for a reboot on the project to instill public confidence in its management,” Qualls said.  “That’s why I am introducing a motion to provide accountability, transparency and a sustainable funding plan for the streetcar.”

Qualls and others are asking for monthly progress reports and for a streetcar operating plan that identifies costs for running the system and where that money will be found.

Others voting favor of the additional streetcar funding were Chris Seelbach, Laure Quinlivan and Wendell Young.  

Council Member Pamula Thomas was against the additional money.

“Continuing down this path without a sound financial plan is irresponsible,” Thomas said.  “Of primary concern is how we will address future cost increases.”  

Thomas said she supported the streetcar until the state pulled its financial support for the proposal.  

Council Member Christopher Smitherman also voted “no” on the additional streetcar funding.

“Here we are spending another $17 million for the streetcar,” Smitherman said.  “I guarantee to the public that this project will cost more than $133 million.  Just like the stadium deal, just like all the promises that were made there, we will be right back here again on a project with overruns and more costs.”

P.G. Sittenfeld and Charlie Winburn also voted no.  

City officials need the additional funds for construction because bids for the plan came in much higher than anticipated.  

The first phase of the project will connect the riverfront with Over-the-Rhine.  The second portion will go to the Uptown area near the University of Cincinnati.  Right now officials aren't projecting how much it will cost to build that part of the system.