Streetcar Project: Public meeting on Monday calls for answers - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Streetcar public meeting calls for answers

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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

It was a packed house Monday night at a public hearing designed to get some answers about the troubled downtown streetcar project.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls called the hearing hoping to get an update on the status on the much-delayed project.  She's asking the city administration to explain both the full cost of moving forward, and what it would cost the city if the project was scrapped. 

Just last month, City Manager Milton Dohoney said construction bids were millions higher than expected, increasing the price tag for the 3.6 mile streetcar route to $133 million.

Cincinnati has a $35 million budget gap this year, and on top of that, a streetcar project that's swelling in cost.  But in front of that packed house in city hall Monday night, Dohoney says expert analysis time and time again has led to them to the point of building the streetcar.

"We have not pursued it simply because it's a cool thing to do.  But because experts have all told us it's what we need to do," said Dohoney.

Dohoney laid out the project plain and simple.  To move forward comes at a cost of more than $17 million.  But to stop the project, that's a different story.  It could cost the city nearly $72 million, and much more.

"Loss of the transit network momentum, letting the vision lapse, a lack of follow through on all the plans, and the lack of our ability to become or stay nationally competitive," added Dohoney.

But for one woman, she says the city's in no financial shape to take on a project like this.

"It's the time that we take a very good look financially of where we are.  Are we willing to sacrifice infrastructure, police and firemen to this idea of the streetcar and making it easy for people to get around," said Helen Russo, who is opposed to the project.

Not everyone feels the same.  Other people spoke in favor of the plan, simply because of what it could bring to the city.

"I urge you all to consider the fact that Cincinnati needs to move forward to stay competitive, and maybe, if we're lucky, we'll have this streetcar built before the 2015 MLB All-Star game and we can reintroduce the Queen City to the rest of the country," one man said during the hearing.

No decision on the project was expected at the meeting.  The full city council meets Wednesday.

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