Losing State Support, Cincinnati’s Streetcar Project in Peril

Downtown Cincinnati

» Wavering commitment to this — and similar infrastructure projects around the country — sends the wrong message about the seriousness of public investment in better transport.

Over the past few months, American transportation projects have been canceled at an accelerated rate: From New Jersey to Florida to Wisconsin, rail programs that have been in the making for years have been abandoned because of conservative opposition to expansion in transportation spending at all levels of the federal system.

This movement, which has been grounded in claims of fiscal responsibility, has sent a disappointing message about the commitment of the American public sector to projects it has previously endorsed.

Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) made his mark last year, eliminating state support for a new intercity rail line to connect Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland — despite the fact that the federal government had agreed to pay for all of the project’s construction

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Streetcar Projects Advance Nationwide Thanks to Local Initiative

US-Streetcar-Systems

» In spite of questions over whether the federal streetcar program has a future and the death of a project in Fort Worth, local dollars are distributed to build new links in Cincinnati, Dallas, New Orleans, and Tempe.

Last week’s decision by officials in Fort Worth, Texas to halt planning work on the city’s streetcar line struck a blow to the nation’s nascent collection of modern streetcar lines, one of the Obama Administration’s biggest transportation policy moves. Local leaders backed down from a $25 million grant received from the federal government earlier this year, arguing that the city wasn’t ready to invest its own money in a project that some suggested shouldn’t be funded by taxpayers.

The decision reinforced the commonly heard argument that the federal government is encouraging a form of transportation that is not fully accepted by people on the ground. It is certainly true that

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Readying Streetcar Plans, Cincinnati Considers Reducing Parking Requirements

Downtown Cincinnati

» With municipal and state funds aligned for transit project, a more livable downtown on its way.

Cincinnati is thinking seriously about how to make its proposed streetcar system a vital element of a growing downtown, not simply a trophy piece to parade around in demonstration of its progress. The city’s Planning Commission has taken a major step in that direction by signaling its support last week to significantly reducing parking requirements in areas within two blocks of future streetcar stops. The city council will have to approve the decision for the zoning code to be altered.

If it goes through with the change, Cincinnati will be demonstrating its support for a new type of urban living and promoting a model for other cities looking into funding inner-city transit systems like streetcars.

With $86.5 million currently reserved for the project and $25 million more likely to be

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Cincinnati Approves Funding for Streetcar, Increasing Likelihood of Federal Commitment

Downtown Cincinnati Transit Plans

» Initial downtown-Over the Rhine line could begin construction later this year, but Cincinnati faces stiff competition from cities across the country fighting for limited federal funds.

Over the past week, Cincinnati has assembled $86.5 million for its new rail project, leaving it about $40 million away from constructing the first modern streetcar in the Midwest. The infusion of funds from municipal, state, and private sources brings it closer to receiving federal aid for the program. The streetcar was endorsed by voters last fall when they reelected pro-transit Mayor Mark Mallory and simultaneously rejected a local group’s call to block all funding for rail projects in the city.

In approving $64 million in bonds and $2.6 million in direct grants, the city council boosted Cincinnati’s competitiveness for U.S. transit funding dramatically. After the council’s action, Ohio’s Department of Transportation chipped in $15 million;

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Ballot Measures Force Commuters to Evaluate Transit Projects First-Hand

» Second in a series of three articles on today’s elections. The first reviewed governor’s races; the third considered mayoral contests.

Though there are several referendums being considered today in which transportation plays a major role, two in the Midwest stand out as particularly interesting. Voters in Cincinnati and Northern Indiana will be deciding whether they want rail systems in the future.

Ballot Measure — Rail in Cincinnati

Update: Voters roundly rejected the ballot measure, providing a boost to streetcar advocates. Transit proponent Mark Mallory wins a second term in the mayor’s seat.

If the NAACP and the right-wing can agree on any one thing, it seems to be a collective dislike for the idea of streetcars in Cincinnati.

Issue 9 would amend the city’s charter to require a new referendum each and every time there is any spending — local, state, or federal — on “right-of-way acquisition or construction of improvements

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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