Cincinnati streetcar

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: