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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:

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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.

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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."

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Cincinnati transportation officials are in the beginning stages of replacing the aging Western Hills viaduct. It was built in 1932 and is beyond its useful and design life.  

Right now it carries 55,000 vehicles a day.  

As the city works on plans for a replacement, some west side residents are asking for rail transit to be a part of the plan.

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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.

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.

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