Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cincinnati streetcar backers to view Portland model

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Just as Portland, Ore.’s MAX light rail operations attracted focus groups from interested U.S. cities beginning in the 1990s, so, too, does the Rose City’s streetcar operation draw interest in the best tradition of “show and tell.”  Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory is the latest to use Portland as a model for local officials not yet convinced of the potential benefits of a Cincinnati streetcar line.

Mallory said a tour of Portland’s operations remains on the agenda despite Cincinnati’s looming $28 million budget deficit, which could grow to $40 million next year. The mayor and allies hope to reinforce proponents’ plans for a $128 million starter line, using public and private funding sources. Opponents of the plan seek a ballot initiative mandating voter approval this fall for any streetcar plan or other rail options.

Costs of the trip for the mayor and one aide will be paid through a fund established in 2006 as part of a settlement with Duke Energy over its merger with Cinergy. Duke deposited the $750,000 into the Business and Jobs Attraction Account. Others who plan to travel to Portland will have to cover their own expenses.