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Cincinnati to break ground on streetcar project next week with Ray LaHood

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory announced today that the city will break ground on its $110 million modern streetcar line next Friday. The ceremony will take place at 1pm outside of Memorial Hall, and city officials will be joined by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

Councilmembers Christopher Smitherman (I) and Charlie Winburn (R) called a special city council hearing today to discuss the finances of the $110 million Cincinnati Streetcar project. The hearing had a specific focus on utility relocation agreements due to the current impasse between the City and Duke Energy.

City officials stated unequivocally that the project will move forward, and that it is common for projects of this scale to have ongoing issues needing to be resolved even once ground has been broken. Both Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney stated that an agreement will eventually be made with Duke Energy, but that the engineering disagreements between the two parties needs to be resolved first.

Rendering of the streetcar along Walnut Street in downtown Cincinnati.

The biggest question at hand, with Duke Energy, is that the City has looked at existing streetcar projects around the United States and come up with a standoff they believe is workable. Duke Energy, meanwhile, has disagreed with those statements and believes that a much greater standoff is needed.

Duke Energy estimates that the relocation work, based on their engineering, would cost approximately $18 million. The City, on the other hand, believes it should only cost $6 million based on the work of their engineers.

“Utilities are issues in every transportation project, not just rail but roadway projects as well,” a representative from Parsons Brinckerhoff told UrbanCincy immediately following the meeting. “This is true for every single project, and they get worked out, and moved forward.”

At a press conference held earlier this week, City Manager Dohoney stated that City of Cincinnati should not be responsible for subsidizing the modernization of Duke Energy’s utility assets, and that the two parties will remain at an impasse until the engineering is validated.

The big news came in the final statement of the meeting when Mayor Mallory announced the groundbreaking for the Cincinnati Streetcar will take place at 1pm on Friday, February 17 outside of Memorial Hall (map). Mayor Mallory also stated that city and project officials will be joined by the Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood at the groundbreaking.

Jenny Kessler and John Yung contributed to this story.

By Randy A. Simes

Randy is an award-winning urban planner who founded UrbanCincy in May 2007. He grew up on Cincinnati’s west side in Covedale, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s nationally acclaimed School of Planning in June 2009. In addition to maintaining ownership and serving as the managing editor for UrbanCincy, Randy has worked professionally as a planning consultant throughout the United States, Korea and the Middle East. After brief stints in Atlanta and Chicago, he currently lives in the Daechi neighborhood of Seoul’s Gangnam district.