Tuesday, February 11, 2014

FTA to Cincinnati: Consider more streetcar

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Current anti-rail forces notwithstanding, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) appears to be encouraging Cincinnati to begin planning to extend its starter streetcar line, the latter currently under construction.

FTA is urging the line be extended to the city's Uptown area, an employment center of 55,000 jobs. The current line, serving the city's Downtown, is home to 64,000 jobs.

But Cincinnati rail opponents, already smarting from their failure last December to stop the current work on the starter line, already are marshalling their forces to reject the plan, counting on Ohio Gov. John Kasich to deny any state fiscal assistance, as he has done in the past. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, elected last November on a platform that included killing the current streetcar project, also is certain to oppose any expansion effort.

As well, those who might benefit from a streetcar extension, including Uptown's businesses and institutions, have shown reluctance to help pay for the expansion, saying it's the responsibility of the government.

Nonetheless, FTA, which contributed $45 million to the current $133 million, 4.4-mile project, and made clear to Mayor Cranley and others last December that streetcar funding would not be repurposed, is urging pro-rail advocates to begin planning for a second step to access Uptown by streetcar. Uptown was to be included in the original plan's first phase.