Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cincinnati committee OKs streetcar funds

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Cincinnati's City Council Finance Committee Monday voted to borrow $64 million to begin building a streetcar line, paving the way for a vote by the full City Council, expected to occur Wednesday.

The proposed first stage, projected to cost $128 million, would run from the Great American Ball Park north through the city to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, including a stop at the University of Cincinnati.

The route has generated predicatable controversy between rail advocates, including businessleaders and environmentalists, who argue for the streetcar as an economic development tool, and anti-rail partisans, including minority groups suspicious of the proposed route’s location and budget hawks insisting the city can’t afford to increase its debt.

Supporters anticipate fiscal funding support from both the state and federal levels. “This project can help us grow our tax base without growing our tax rate,” said Brad Thomas, founder of the advocacy group CincyStreetcar.com.  “The approval of these bonds will send a clear message to Washington, D.C. that Cincinnati is serious about this project, and will strongly position Cincinnati for the next two rounds of federal funds.”

A Streetcar Feasibility Study issued in July 2007 by HDR Inc.and Parsons Brinckerhoff identified vehicles comparable to those used by Portland, Ore., as the likely choice for a Cincinnati system.