Cincinnati secures full funding for first phase of modern streetcar system

The Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) announced yesterday that they have unanimously recommended an award of $35 million for the construction of phase one of the Cincinnati Streetcar. The $35 million award means that the first phase of Cincinnati’s modern streetcar system is now fully funded.

To date, the Cincinnati Streetcar has secured $150 million through a variety of public and private resources to fund the first phase of the system which is estimated to cost $128 million.

“Today was a great day for our streetcar project,” exclaimed Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory in an email yesterday. “We now have the full amount needed to complete the first phase. This will help grow our city and improve our financial future.”

In addition to $35 million for construction, TRAC also recommended $1.8 million for planning and preliminary engineering work for phase two of the project which will extend further throughout Cincinnati’s uptown neighborhoods.

The Cincinnati Streetcar project scored 84 out of a possible 100 points in TRAC’s ranking – by far the highest total of all transportation projects from around the state. As a result of that robust score, ODOT officials approved TRAC’s $15 million recommendation for the Cincinnati Streetcar project in May 2010.

During recent budget debates, some advocacy groups have lobbied against the Cincinnati Streetcar project and said that the money should be instead used for other purposes – mainly preserving police and fire sources.  City officials have responded by repeatedly stating that the capital funds identified for the Cincinnati Streetcar are restricted funds that can only be used on capital projects – not operating expenses like personnel. Furthermore, city officials also believe the streetcar investment will return an estimated $3 for every $1 invested.

“In light of the budget problems facing the city, I am convinced that we must use every economic development tool we can to bring residents, jobs, businesses – and tax revenue – to the city,” explained City Manager Milton Dohoney. “Together, the streetcar, casino, The Banks, 21c Hotel, and other investments generate bigger returns that will stabilize and grow our local economy.”

Once complete, the system will be managed and operated by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority which currently manages and operates Metro bus service. Phase one of the Cincinnati Streetcar is expected to take on its first passengers in spring 2013.

  • Zack

    not to hijack the post, but are the rumors true that the main tenant in the banks will be “Toby Keith’s I love this bar”?

    Do we really need a 3rd over-sized bar with a mechanical bull in a 2 mile area?


  • Matt Jacob

    I’m glad they’ve got more than they need to fund the first phase, because things like Duke needing an extra $15 million to move utilities are bound to happen on any project this size. Hopefully with the extra funding ground can finally get broken and construction won’t need to slow pace at all when things go a little off plan. FULL SPEED AHEAD!

  • Yea the rumors input the Toby Keith bar ate true, to the best iffy knowledge. I wasn’t 100% thrilled when I first heard the news either, but I started looking into the placer further, and I like it more now. I guess they have live music almost every night. I agree about the size and the trash-factor of a mechanical bull. Hopefully the location and music will redeem it.

  • Aaron

    It’s good to see funding is finally complete. Do we know when construction will begin? Is phase 2 for sure going to be built or are we still considering it? I think it would be much more successful if we can connect all the students from Uptown with downtown and the Banks. Not sure how many riders there would be just downtown and in OTR.

  • Aaron –

    Phase 1 will reach the top of the Vine Street hill. Its northern terminous will be somewhere at the intersection of Vine/Jefferson/Calhoun/Taft/McMillan right on the edge of the UC campus, giving students and faculty very easy access to downtown, OTR and the Banks.

    It is my understanding that Phase 2 is still under consideration. It would still need to be studied further, which is why an announcement that includes funding for further study is particularly exciting. The three most popular routes I’ve heard so far are:
    -Following Vine/Jefferson/Short Vine north/south to the Zoo and back
    -Following Taft/McMillan east/west through Walnut Hills
    -Using either Calhoun/McMillan or MLK as an east/west connector to Clifton Ave so that it could run north to the Ludlow strip. While this is clearly the longest option, it also has the potential to provide the most draw. Using MLK, the streetcar could pass by (or potentially even pass through) the hospital complex on its way to one of the city’s most unique, vibrant, and successful neighborhood business districts.

  • Jon

    Hey Guys-

    700WLW has been saying that Kasich will be killing the funding as soon as he is sworn in. The TRAC money won’t be doled out until March so there is plenty of time for him to cut it. His new Transportation Chief is a former Asphalt lobbyist and has a history of being anti-rail.

    Anyone know if this is likely or not possible? Is this money part of the FY that starts under Strickland or does Kasich have a say?

  • Justin

    I too am concerned that this funding will disappear when Kasich takes over in January.

  • Jon/Justin,

    There are 9 members on the TRAC. Not sure all of them will be replaced.