Steve Chabot Attempts to Overturn the Will of Cincinnati Voters

There they go again. After two failed initiatives (Issue 9 and Issue 48) to defeat fixed rail public transportation at the ballot boxes, enemies of the Cincinnati Streetcar project are once again moving to bar the city from completing what has been billed as crucial to the economic development of Over-the-Rhine and downtown. This time they found an ally at the congressional level.

Last week, Representative Steve Chabot (R), Ohio’s District One representative, and native of the west side of Cincinnati coyly inserted an amendment into the Transportation Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill that would bar the use of federal dollars in funding any project in Cincinnati that is on a “fixed guideway” system. The bill is currently in the Senate where it will be voted on and forwarded to the President for his signature should it pass.

The amendment, which reads, “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to design, construct, or operate a fixed guideway project located in Cincinnati, Ohio,” is designed as an attempt to stop the Cincinnati Streetcar project. The amendment’s language mirrors that of both Issue’s 9 & 48 but has even broader and more far reaching consequences than either of the two failed ballot initiatives.

According to the Federal government, a fixed guideway is defined as:

Any transit service that uses exclusive or controlled rights-of-way or rails, entirely or in part. The term includes heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, monorail, trolleybus, aerial tramway, inclined plane, cable car, automated guideway transit, ferryboats, that portion of motor bus service operated on exclusive or controlled rights-of-way, and high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes.

This broad definition means that not only would the amendment preclude that no federal funding go towards the streetcar project but that federal funds would also be barred from being used towards any improvement of the following city projects:

  • Upgrading the city’s overcrowded freight rail system: The city has previously asked for state and federal funding to add a “fourth main” freight rail line expanding the regions freight rail capacity and reducing the impact of an existing freight rail bottleneck along the three main freight lines adjacent to the Mill Creek. The City can’t even ask for this solution if the amendment goes forward.
  • Development of the city’s Bus Rapid Transit system: SORTA and the City have been conducting studies on implementing BRT on several streets in Cincinnati including Reading Road and Montgomery Road. This amendment will make it impossible for the project to utilize much needed federal funds to buy buses and construct stops and street improvements.
  • Development of the Eastern Corridor and Wasson Line for light or commuter rail: Both of these rail lines would connect downtown to the east side of the city. Without federal funds neither project can even be studied. This includes any study on the possibility of a “Rails and trails” combined bicycle path on the Wasson Line.

This amendment is a poison pill meant to punish the progress of Cincinnati and its revitalizing urban core and overrules and ignores the will of the city electorate. It serves only the shortsighted will of vocal minority and threatens to leave our entire metropolitan region at a competitive disadvantage against other regions as we move towards a 21st century economy.

We strongly urge supporters of transportation infrastructure to write Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown (D) and Rob Portman (R) to remove this overly restrictive language from the THUD bill. Additionally, we encourage supporters of transportation infrastructure in Ohio’s First Congressional District to give Representative Chabot an earful over this callous disregard towards voters in his home district.

Happy Independence Day!

  • jasomm

    Wow!… This is pathetic. I really hope that other congresspeople see this amendment, and recognize what extreme douchiness it entails, regardless of their personal views on public transit.
    This thing specifically punishes a congressperson’s own district for trying to improve it’s mobility and quality of life…
    The first phase of the street-car already has its funding in place, right? Its not dependent on any future federal allocations? I only see reference to prohibiting funding of the street-car, and dont see the phrase “Fixed guide way system” in that link.

    • This move will not allow Steve Chabot to pull existing funding from the project, but it will prevent work from progressing on the study of the planned Uptown phase of the system. But then again, that’s just the streetcar portion of what this overreaching amendment would impact.

  • In case anyone needs an quick message to send along to Brown and Portman, here is something I wrote up. Feel free to edit as needed.

    I’m writing to you in request that you will act to remove the overly restrictive language introduce by Representative Steve Chabot from the Transportation Housing and Urban Development bill that bars the use of federal dollars in funding any project in Cincinnati that is on a “fixed guideway” system. This broad definition would bar funds for the Cincinnati streetcar project, which is crucial to the redevelopment of
    the downtown and Over-the-Rhine neighborhoods in our urban core. It also would bar the use of funds on other important projects like upgrading the city’s overcrowded freight rail system, developing the city’s Bus Rapid Transit system, and developing the Eastern Corridor and Wasson Line for light or commuter rail. I understand that Representative Chabot wants to avoid spending so as to appear to be fiscally conservative, but the provision he introduced would only restrict federal spending in Cincinnati and funds would otherwise be directed to other cities. Cincinnati is in the process of undergoing nationally recognized urban redevelopment and it is crucial that this provision be removed so we can continue to improve and repopulate our urban core. Cincinnatians have already voted TWICE in favor of constructing a streetcar system. Please reaffirm the voters of Cincinnati and remove this provision before voting on the bill. Thank you for reading this and I hope you consider my request.

  • I’m sure Mr. Cabot is very in touch with the issues facing Cincinnati as he sits at his desk in D.C. sharing a cigar with Boehner. Lol

  • tangeri

    What is his problem? Seriously. I want to know why he’s so motivated to destroy this. Does anybody know?

  • Zachary Schunn

    Most Congressmen get criticized (outside their district, at least) for earmarks. Chabot is giving us an anti-earmark.

    Congress needs to stop picking winners and losers, period. These grants should (and often do) go through competitive processes, not get earmarked to or funneled away from particular districts. Just one more reason people generally see our Congress as corrupt…