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Cincinnati Will Complete Its Streetcar

1:38 PM PST on December 19, 2013

"We're gonna have a streetcar."

That was the announcement, met with cheers, from Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley this afternoon.

Streetcar supporters rallying last month. Photo: UrbanCincy

Cranley said he "would not sign the legislation because" he "thinks it's wrong." But he was flanked by Council Member Kevin Flynn, the crucial vote on the City Council needed to override a mayoral veto.

Major institutions like the regional transit authority SORTA and the Haile U.S. Bank Foundation had been working behind the scenes to convince Flynn -- formerly a streetcar opponent -- that the streetcar's operating costs would not hurt city services. Five other members of Cincinnati's City Council voted in committee this morning to put forward a recommendation for legislation that the project be resumed. A City Council vote will take place at a meeting beginning at 2 p.m.

The system is expected to cost about $2.5 million annually to operate, which could be defrayed through private donations, advertising, sponsorship, and potentially other sources. Nine million dollars for operations was committed by the Haile Foundation, a champion of the project.

"I can't thank them enough along with other people who worked long and hard to make this a reality," said Flynn. "We have no choice but to make this a successful project."

Streetcar supporters are elated.

"I'm crying in public," said Jenny Kessler, an organizer of Cincinnatians for Progress, supporters of the streetcar. "Thank you, Cincinnati!"

"A streetcar named progress. Hooray!," wrote Cincinnati resident Genevieve Holt on Twitter.

The area's regional transit agency, SORTA, has agreed to assume responsibility for operating the four-mile starter loop. It will be the first time Cincinnati has had rail transit in more than 60 years. The project was hard-fought right until the bitter end. The Federal Transit Administration has indicated it would pull $45 million in funding for the project at midnight tonight unless the city agreed to resume construction.

An independent audit ordered by Cranley found earlier this week that the cost for abandoning the project would be comparable to completing it, even without considering possible litigation related to violating construction contracts.

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