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Cincinnati Council votes to suspend streetcar construction

Provided from City of Cincinnati

Update 12/6/13:

Mayor Cranley on his Facebook page says, at his request, the Federal Transportation Administration has decided to hold off on canceling the streetcar project until December 19 to allow city to make a final decision.

Update 12/4/13 9:00 PM:

Construction on most parts of Cincinnati's streetcar project will be coming to a halt.  But that's not to say you won't see some workers on the job in parts of Downtown or Over-the-Rhine. 

City Council with a 5-4 vote Wednesday decided to temporarily suspend the project while a financial audit is conducted to determine if it makes sense to complete the first phase of the streetcar.  That review is expected to take two-weeks, but actual construction is paused for 30 days. 

Council Member Christopher Smitherman supported the effort.

"A pause does not mean cancel, and it doesn't mean cancel to me," Smitherman said.  "What this administration must do is provide this body with the information."

Work on the streetcar was paused with 11 different ordinances that all have monetary appropriations connected with them.  That makes it nearly impossible for streetcar supporters to launch a petition drive to put the issues on the ballot. 

An attorney for some streetcar supporters said they'll be meeting and planning their next moves. 

Council also rejected an offer of private funding to pay for the financial review and to continue some limited construction on the project during the audit. 

Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld voted against the temporary suspension.

"If today ends up being a sort of final moment in the long saga of the streetcar," Sittenfeld said.  "I hope that everybody will not retreat and pull back, but will double down and continue to do everything you can to make this the city that you want it to be."

It's still unclear what the temporary stoppage will mean for federal grant dollars pledged to the project.  Those funds had already be frozen pending Council's decision on the streetcar. 

Meanwhile, Council Member Yvette Simpson introduced a motion to place a charter amendment on the ballot to let residents decide the fate of the streetcar project.  Voters would get a straight up or down vote on the plan.  If Council approves, the amendment could be on the ballot in May.

Original Post:

Cincinnati Council has officially voted to temporarily suspend the city's streetcar project. 

Five members voted in favor of the pause, and four were opposed. 

During the pause, the city will hire an accounting firm to audit the costs of stopping the project entirely.  That review is expected to take about two weeks.  After that Council will decide whether to continue with the streetcar project or cancel it completely. 

Council rejected an offer of private funding to continue some limited streetcar construction during the financial review. 

More details of the vote online later.