It has been a long time coming, but the Cincinnati streetcar will officially begin carrying passengers Friday.
There have been many ups and downs for the streetcar project. After years of planning, a three to four week work stoppage in 2013 that nearly killed it and months of construction, the system is ready to go.
A ceremony with more than a dozen speeches happens Friday morning at 10:30 at Washington Park. Those scheduled to speak include former Mayor Mark Mallory and former Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls. Both championed the project and were at City Hall when construction started. Current Mayor John Cranley will also speak, even though he campaigned in 2013 against the streetcar and led a failed effort in December 2013 to stop it. A veto-proof majority of city council rejected Cranley's efforts.
Following a ceremonial first ride for elected officials and VIPs, the public gets it first chance to ride the streetcar and large crowds are expected. The rides are free for the weekend. Actual fare service starts Monday.
City streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick, who took over the project in April 2013, said the finished product is the result of a lot of teamwork.
"To keep track of the money, keep track of any construction issues, to go out and talk to businesses, and just build that communication network you need," Deatrick said.
Deatrick said construction was completed without one defective rail weld and not a single bad load of concrete.
Deatrick said he is not sure about his future now that the system is ready to operate.
"Right now I'm totally, as they say, laser focused on getting the contracts closed out both the construction contract and the vehicle contact," Deatrick said. "We still have some minor punch lists on both and we're still making some tweaks to the construction as we learn more as we go along."
Before the streetcar project, Deatrick oversaw The Banks riverfront project and he also earned much praise for his work guiding the rebuilding Fort Washington Way in the late 1990's.