Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Cincinnati streetcar survives anti-rail effort

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A majority of Cincinnati voters Tuesday stood by current plans to reintroduce streetcars to the city, rejecting Issue 48, a ballot measure that would have banned any city funds to be spent on passenger rail implementation.

With 99% of the city’s precincts reporting, 35,469 votes, or 51.5%, opposed Issue 48, while 33,449 voted in favor of the measure, which would have thwarted the streetcar proposal.

Streetcar supporters were enthused. “Passenger rail is a powerful catalyst for economic development, new jobs, new homes, higher property values and a bigger tax base,” said Margaret McGurk. “Slamming the door on investments that pay back far more than they cost makes no sense for the city's future.”

Another supporter, John Schneider, told Railway Age the election also produces a city council more staunchly in support of streetcar development. “What’s really key is that we now have a solid super-majority of streetcar supporters. Three [streetcar] opponents lost. It’s clear sailing now,” Schneider said.

Some residents polled by local media said that while they were skeptical of the streetcar plan, they objected to the sweeping nature of Issue 48, which would ban any attempt to advance passenger rail of any kind for many years.

The streetcar’s first 4.5-mile phase, costing roughly $100 million, would connect the city’s Downtown to Findlay Market and its Over-the-Rhine Historic District. Cincinnati is evaluating equipment types, including hybrid streetcars, for the route.