Keep or cancel streetcar? Difference is $8.5-22.5 million

Nov 21, 2013

Update 11/21/13 @ 5:20PM:  Cincinnati mayor-elect John Cranley is not being swayed by the city administration's cost estimates to cancel the streetcar project.

“It doesn’t cost $40 million to say stop,” Cranley said Thursday during a press conference.  “It doesn’t take a year to get out of this madness.  We’re going to immediately put a halt to this project.”

Cranley is still promising a Council vote the first week of December to temporarily stop the streetcar project.

Cranley is pledging to bring in new leadership to provide an honest and objective analysis of whether the cost to cancel is greater or lesser than the cost to continue.  

Those new leaders will include an interim city manager, who may select a different person to manage and oversee the streetcar project even if it's going to be stopped.

He also said he is working with the local federal elected officials on getting federal money for the plan allocated to other city projects.  A letter last week from the Federal Transit Administration said if the streetcar is canceled the money must be returned to Washington and it will be used for other rail projects around the country.

Original post:

According to the City of Cincinnati's budget team, finishing the streetcar project would cost $8.5 to $22.5 million more than canceling it.

Streetcar project head John Deatrick told a Cincinnati Council committee Thursday the total estimated cost of canceling would range between $108 and $125 million dollars. He says there would be a lot of questions about where the money to cancel would come from and what would be done with work that's already done. He says it would take 1-2 months to create a plan and another 6-12 to implement.

By the numbers:

Total spent through Nov. 30 = $32.8 million

Estimated costs to close out = $30.6 - $47.6 million

Federal funding that would have to be turned back = $45 million

Total estimated cost of canceling = $108 - $125 million

Estimated cost to build = $147.8 million

Difference between finishing & canceling = $8.5 - $22.5 million

Outgoing Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls wrapped up the meeting by addressing three of the incoming council members in attendance.

"Be the lawyers that you are," says Qualls. "Be the advocates that you are. And the bottom line is that if what has been presented today stands up to scrutiny, then it makes absolutely no sense to cancel this project."

The council members in question, Kevin Flynn, David Mann and Amy Murray, all left feeling skeptical about the city's financial figures saying they want some time to review them. All three also say they think the project should be put on hold until the new council is seated December 1.

Amy Murray says she simply doesn't believe the city's numbers. She says taxpayers lose either way when it comes to the cost of ongoing litigation with Duke Energy over who will pay for relocating utility lines.

Litigation was also on the mind of outgoing council member Laure Quinlivan. She points out one big issue not figured into the cost of cancelling the streetcar.

"That's assuming no one sues us," she said. "And that is not going to happen... It's pretty clear that our costs to actually close out the project would definitely exceed the cost of simply finishing the project and we would have no benefit at the end of canceling the project."

Here's the city's presentation: