Streetcar Groundbreaking is Next Week

Transportation Secretary may attend event

Feb 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Groundbreaking ceremonies for Cincinnati's long-awaited streetcar project will occur next Friday, Feb. 17, in front of Memorial Hall on Elm Street in Over-the-Rhine.

Mayor Mark Mallory announced the ceremony this afternoon. It will launch the first phase of construction, which involves relocating water lines under city streets.

Opening of the streetcar line’s first phase, a 3.9-mile loop between The Banks riverfront district and Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine, is scheduled for late 2013.—-

The mayor will give some brief remarks inside Memorial Hall beginning at 1 p.m., followed by a short official groundbreaking outside on Elm Street.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is tentatively slated to attend the event, although his appearance still is being finalized. In December, LaHood awarded a $10.92 million federal grant to the project that restored the segment between downtown’s Government Square and The Banks.

That segment and another, from Findlay Market to the uptown area near the University of Cincinnati, had been dropped in spring 2011 after Ohio cancelled about $52 million in state funding due to political pressure from Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who generally opposes mass transit projects.

Besides the federal grant, Cincinnati officials have allocated $99.5 million for the project, which will pay for the first phase.

Of that amount, $25 million comes from an urban circulator grant awarded by the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA); $4 million comes from a congestion mitigation and air quality improvement grant by the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments; $6.5 million comes from Duke Energy; and the remaining $64 million will come from construction bonds issued by the city.

Streetcar supporters say the project's primary purpose is as an economic development tool, spurring investment in vacant and dilapidated properties along its route.

Studies have indicated the local streetcar system would spark nearly $1.4 billion in new development along its route. That means it would produce — when adjusted in today's value — up to $2.70 in economic activity for every $1 invested.