Cincinnati streetcar

Provided / SORTA

Construction work continues on the first phase of the Cincinnati streetcar project despite lots of snow and cold temperatures.  Crews once again plan to work on track at a busy downtown intersection this weekend. 

Project executive John Deatrick said that construction has been delayed twice because of the weather.

“The rail will start Friday night at 7 p.m., Fifth Street will be closed because we can’t put the rail down half at a time in the intersection,” Deatrick said.  “We have to do the whole intersection at one go.”

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.

Provided/City of Cincinnati

Six Cincinnati council members are signing on to a plan to pay for the costs of operating the city's streetcar system.  The proposal was introduced Wednesday during a press conference at city hall.  

It anticipates streetcar operations will cost the city about $4.2 million a year.

The funds will come from three sources including parking revenues from Over-the-Rhine and the Central Business District.

Jay Hanselman

Streetcar track work is now moving into Cincinnati's Central Business District and that likely will continue through early 2015 as part of the $133 million project.

"Seeing the track on Walnut Street is an exciting milestone in the construction process," said project executive John Deatrick in a statement.  "It's a sign the streetcar is getting closer to achieving our goal to connect two major downtown neighborhoods: Over-the-Rhine and the Central Business District."

Mark Heyne / WVXU News

The streetcar project is taking a turn, literally, and that means eastbound Central Parkway between Vine and Walnut  is being closed for a few days.  The closure runs from 6 Thursday night through 7 Monday morning.  

Crews will be installing a section of curved track, one of the turns in the 3.6 mile loop that will connect The Banks to Findlay Market through Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.  Project Executive John Deatrick said this is a major milestone as track work crosses into Cincinnati's Central Business District.

Provided / City of Cincinnati

Attention graphic designers and marketing firms: now's your chance to layout your vision for the Cincinnati Streetcar.

Metro has released a Request for Proposals for branding the streetcar including a logo and guidelines for how it should be used on everything "related to streetcar operations, including vehicles, signs, operators’ uniforms, website, and printed materials."

You'll need to work fast, the deadline for submissions is Friday, May 23.

Downtown Cincinnati is full of flashing construction arrow signs and traffic cones blocking streets...causing delays for workers and visitors.  

City spokeswoman Meg Olberding said it is part of a "growth explosion."

“In my time at the city, I don’t remember quite this much construction happening in a concentrated area of the CBD, The banks and Over-the-Rhine,” Olberding said.  “Obviously you do one thing one place, and it has a ripple effect.”

There are various projects including streetcar construction, Duke Energy utility work and private developments.  

Cincinnati officials now say the nearly three week pause in construction on the city's streetcar project cost nearly $1 million.  That includes more than $637,000 for contractors.

“Cost directly associated with the pause itself for MPD and its subcontractors,” said Chris Eilerman, streetcar project manager.  “So it’s largely go to be down time, idle equipment time, those kind of costs basically incurred during the pause itself.”

MPD is a partnership of three companies working on the streetcar project.  They include Messer, Prus, and Delta.

Downtown drivers can expect Seventh Street to be down to one lane between Main and Walnut streets starting Monday, due to electric utility work for the streetcar project.

Main Street is also being reduced to one lane between Sixth and Seventh streets. There will be no left turn on to Main Street from Seventh and motorists are advised to get to Main Street via Sycamore to Sixth Street.

The lane closures will last for about a month, said John Deatrick, the project executive for the Cincinnati streetcar project.

A Cincinnati Council Committee tasked with overseeing the streetcar project wants more information on different ways to pay for it.  Those funds could be used to extend it to the Uptown area near the University of Cincinnati, or for dollars to operate the loop now being built in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.  

The Major Transportation Committee Tuesday asked for more details on special improvement districts or special assessment districts.

Provided / City of Cincinnati

Cincinnati officials said Wednesday they still do not know the cost of delaying work on the streetcar project for most of last month.  They're still calculating that number and also the effect on the timeline to build the first phase.  

Council delayed the project for several weeks before deciding on December 19th to let it move forward.  Officials also say the cold weather has caused some delays.  

The first actual streetcar will arrive in the city in March 2015.  

An independent audit of the streetcar shows it would cost from $25 million to $50 million more to complete the project than to stop it, the mayor rejected an offer by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) to cover streetcar operating costs, and council is meeting this afternoon to continue debate. With the deadline to receive federal money fast approaching. How things stand now with the streetcar.

Update 12/18/13 @ 9:30 PM: 

Cincinnati Council will likely vote Thursday on whether the city's controversial streetcar project will continue. 

Construction has been on hold since December 4th.  Now the group will decide whether to let work resume or finally pull the plug on the plan. 

So far the city has spent $34 million on the streetcar project.  An independent audit firm reported Wednesday it will cost anywhere from $16 to $46 million to cancel the streetcar or about $69 million to complete it. 

Update 12/17/13 @ 6:20 PM:  Council members Young, Simpson and Seelbach released a statement on SORTA's offer to take responsibility for streetcar operating cost.  A portion reads:

Six Council members sent a letter to the Federal Transit Administration about the city's streetcar project.  The text of the letter is below.

Meanwhile, Council is scheduled to hear public comments again on the project Wednesday afternoon starting at 1:30.  The streetcar committee will hold a meeting Thursday at 9 a.m. to learn more about an audit to determine the costs of stopping the project versus continuing it.  The full Council will meet Thursday at 2 p.m. to take a vote on stopping or continuing the project.

FTA letter:

Dear Mr. Rogoff:

OK, let’s get this straight.

This new mayor of Cincinnati, John Cranley, ran this fall and won big on a platform where the top three priorities were this:

  1. Kill the streetcar project.
  2. Kill the streetcar project
  3. Kill the streetcar project.

Several days ago, he seemed well on the way to doing just that.

Provided from City of Cincinnati

Federal transit officials Friday morning refused Mayor John Cranley's request to extend the Dec. 19 deadline for pulling $45 million in federal money from the streetcar project.

But the mayor's spokesman, Jay Kincaid, says Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff did agree to talk to pro-streetcar advocates to allow them to make a pitch for more time.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Streetcar supporters are launching a campaign to put a charter amendment on the February ballot forcing the city to finish the streetcar. The group We Believe in Cincinnati says it needs 5,700 signatures but is aiming for 12,000 by Saturday.

  Cincinnati’s new mayor and city council were sworn in Sunday, and, as expected, most of their focus this week has been on the streetcar. Just yesterday, council voted to suspend construction while an audit is done to determine the costs involved in continuing or abandoning the project. We hear arguments for stopping the project from Vice Mayor David Mann and Council Member Kevin Flynn.

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