Cincinnati streetcar

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

Crews this week are putting up the overhead wires in Over-the-Rhine that will power the Cincinnati streetcar.  Crews worked Wednesday along Elm Street, between 14th and Henry. 

Jay Hanselman / WVXU

  With the holiday season out of the way, contractors are again laying track for the Cincinnati streetcar. 

And this weekend, they will close a major Downtown intersection.  6th Street will be closed at Walnut, starting at 6 p.m. Friday.  And it will stay closed until about 6 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Provided / SORTA

Cincinnati officials now say the contingency budget for the city's streetcar project is estimated to be $1.3 million.  That is up from the $80,000 reported about a month ago.  

Officials updated a council committee Tuesday on the project.
“We have better information and more concrete information upon which to project those expenses,” said Chris Eilerman, a city official working on the project who explained the changes.  “Based on that we’ve been able to hone in on better numbers and the result is what you see here.”

Ann Thompson / WVXU

Fifteen months after it began, the track loop for the Cincinnati Streetcar in Over the Rhine is now finished.

Just after 9:00 Monday morning workers welded the track together on Race Street between Elder and Green Streets, just south of Findlay Market.

This is the track that will serve as the test track for the first streetcar vehicles when they arrive in the fall of 2015. Workers still have to install overhead power lines and poles in OTR.

Provided / SORTA

The team managing the city's streetcar project is being asked to take a look at the remaining construction items and decide what's needed and what can be left out to save money.  

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Cincinnati's mayor and city manager will be meeting with the streetcar team this week to discuss the dwindling amount of money in the contingency fund.  If all worst case scenarios happen, the fund could have just $80,000 left in it.  It started out with more than $9 million. 

Mayor John Cranley says the message to streetcar officials John Deatrick and Chris Eilerman is this: "We need to have a team that's going to bring the streetcar in on time and under budget, or we need a new team."

Provided / SORTA

The SORTA board of trustees has signed off on an operating and maintenance agreement for the streetcar.  Cincinnati Council has already approved the agreement, which spells out the responsibilities of the transit authority and the city.

The new streetcar logo was also unveiled Tuesday.

Under terms of the agreement, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority will make an annual funding request to the city to cover operating costs.  The city will collect the funds from fares, advertising revenue, parking fees, and from property tax abatement offset revenue.

provided / Metro

The former head of Atlanta’s streetcar project is now the chief executive officer of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority.

The SORTA Board approved Dwight Ferrell as the new CEO Tuesday morning.

Ferrell comes to the Cincinnati area from Fulton County, Georgia, where he served as county manager since October 2013.  Before that, he was the deputy general manager and chief operating officer of MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority for four years.

Provided/City of Cincinnati

The cost of building the first phase of the Cincinnati streetcar project could have just increased by $15 million. 

A Hamilton County Common Pleas Court judge ruled Tuesday the city cannot force Duke Energy to pay the costs of moving underground utilities along the streetcar route.  Duke estimated the cost at $15 million. The city had set aside that amount  from the sale of the Blue Ash Airport in case the judge ruled in Duke's favor.

Cincinnati will appeal the decision. In a statement, City Manager Harry Black writes:

Provided/City of Cincinnati

Cincinnati Council has approved a three part plan to pay for operating costs of the Cincinnati streetcar.  

It includes a mix of fares and advertising income, parking meter revenues from downtown and Over-the-Rhine, and changes to the city's abatement policies asking developers to contribute money to a fund to help with operating costs.  

Mayor John Cranley called the plan creative even though he said he still believes the streetcar project is a mistake.