Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cincinnati finalizes streetcar contract

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Struggling for years against a hostile sentiment from the state government and some surrounding county organizations, Cincinnati city officials are shrugging off resistance to a proposed initial streetcar line, signing a construction contract with Messer/Prus/Delta Joint Venture to proceed.

"With this contract now signed, the City has issued Notice to Proceed to the Messer team," the city announced in a press release issued on its website. "This means: Materials will be ordered; [and] preparation for construction of the trackway, Maintenance & Operations Facility (MOF) at Race & Henry streets, power system (including overhead power lines & substations), and station stops can begin immediately."

The contract, awarded Monday, July 15, 2013, is worth $71.4 million. Cincinnati will provide $492,933 in additional funding and revisions to the completion milestone dates "because of the delay between the anticipated Notice to Proceed date of April 8, 2013 and today," the city said.

One local rail advocate told Railway Age the city hopes to complete the project in time to begin operations Sept. 15, 2016. Test running of CAF USA streetcars is targeted for March 2016.

Federal support for the project, including vocal endorsement from former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, have counteracted some of the regional anti-rail obstruction efforts. Last month $5 million in additional federal funds was pledged to the project, reinforcing a city move to close a projected $17.4 million funding gap.

The source said the city's determination is bolstering public perception of the project despite a mayoral campaign which includes one candidate pledging to shut down any streetcar development if elected.

City officials continue to plan for a streetcar extension to Uptown and the University of Cincinnati, originally envisioned but dropped from the first phase. "And the light rail [transit] discussion is starting up again here" as another piece of the city's future transport options, the source said.