VIDEO: Cincinnati Installs First Overhead Streetcar Wires In More Than 50 Years

Construction crews recently began installing the first overhead wires for the Cincinnati Streetcar. The initial installations took place just over a week ago in Over-the-Rhine. It marks the first time in more than 50 years that overhead streetcar wires have been in place over Cincinnati streets.

During the early discussions about this starter line for the modern streetcar system, skeptics had charged that the overhead wires would serve as an eyesore and a target for vandals. While it is too early to tell if vandals will have any interest in tampering with the overhead wires, it is now evident just non-intrusive overhead wires are for modern transit systems.

Unlike the systems from over a half-century ago, sleek poles support a single neatly strung wire over the street. Also unlike overhead wires of past, this wire will be strung approximately 19 feet above the ground in order to make it more resistant to tampering, and to keep the live current safely away from pedestrians and cyclists below.

Accordingly, the construction of the starter streetcar line is also bringing all new traffic signals and utility poles to the streets along the route.

Following the same pattern as track installation, the first overhead wires were installed along Elm Street near Washington Park. The overhead wire system will carry a 750-volt direct current that will provide the power to run the streetcar vehicles, and project officials say that it will be installed in a slight zig-zag pattern above the streetcar track in order to make sure the pantograph on the streetcar vehicles wears evenly over time.

The above video was put together by CitiCable in its ongoing documentation of streetcar construction work.

  • John Love

    Go Cincy!

  • matimal

    Isn’t there a risk of people who are more than 20 feet tall, they exist, being electrocuted?

  • KeepReal

    Could someone explain what is that godawful metal structure which has recently been plopped down right in the middle of the median of Court Street at Walnut? I suspect that it is a transformer or some such thing for the streetcar. Could they have picked a WORSE place to locate that giant sarcophagus? Wouldn’t there be a parking lot somewhere (answer: tons of them, everywhere) where this thing could be housed?
    It totally mars this lovely street. In the effort to create a good was is it really necessary to wreck that which is already good?

    • Yes, that is a power substation for the streetcar. There are four of them along the route, although the other three are hidden a little better. I suspect that they placed it there so that they wouldn’t have had to purchase additional land (such as in one of the nearby parking lots) which would have added additional time and expense to the project. This one will eventually covered up by some kind of artwork so it won’t look so much like a transformer when they’re done.

    • KeepReal

      Thank you, Travis.

      Our ancestors are cursing the idiots behind that decision.

      Are we in for any more eyesore surprises as the streetcar construction goes along? I’m not particularly thrilled by the massiveness of the station/stops. The way the tall curbs (nearly) butt into the street lanes is pretty aggressive as well as hazardous. One already sees plenty of evidence of collisions with these stations. I was really hoping and expecting (way back when) that there would be no additional elevation to the sidewalk and/or station. That one would board the car by walking up to it and stepping up and in to it. There are plenty of systems around the world that are like this and don’t have these massive stations at each stop. The cars ride pretty close to the ground so that there are no giant strides to enter the car. Disabled people could be accommodated the way buses serve them currently, i.e. leaning and/or ramps that drop down.

      Eager to see these first overhead wires in person. Maybe they’re not as terrible as they are in other cities.

      Have aesthetics played any significant role in this project? Or have the transpo-development geeks made all the decisions without an wholistic regard? Hope my ‘yes’ vote wasn’t a mistake.

    • EDG

      There will be a brick wall and cornice surrounding the substation eventually and the curbs will eventually be replaced. It’s still in the construction phase and I don’t find it that much more hideous or obvious than the two huge parking lots on either side.

    • Jules Michael Rosen

      The brick wall and cornice have been cut, due to budget constraints. It will now be surrounded by a see through faux wrought iron security fence. Ick.

    • No, I’m pretty sure both the Findlay Market and Court Street substations will still be getting decorative/artistic coverings.

    • Jules Michael Rosen

      Perhaps, they have since added the idea of decorative coverings, but the most recent thing I read was that the brick walls were out. I couldn’t find the article that talks specifically about this, but this article mentions the re-negotiation that took place in this regard: http://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/2015/01/06/streetcar-contingency-budget-wont-land-in-worst.html?page=all

    • The reason that the stops are so tall is that the platforms will line up exactly with the height of the streetcar doors. This will allow someone in a wheelchair to board without having to wait for a ramp to extend. It will also allow people to easily roll bikes on board. Ultimately this will make the system much faster and fully ADA compatible, unlike buses.

    • EDG

      And in a few places, the platforms will be a huge improvement to bus stops.