(Cincinnati) -- It would appear to be a big policy change for Mayor John Cranley. He ran on the promise of stopping construction on the Cincinnati streetcar project, and with allies on City Council put a halt to the work.
Now, he says he has heard the arguments of project supporters, and has put forth a compromise. Cranley says if private funding can be secured to cover the operational costs of the streetcar, he will say okay to completing phase one.
Operational costs have not been determined, but some estimates put it as high as $4.5 million a year. And, as part of the federal grants, the City has to operate the streetcar for at least 30 years.
It's always been part of the plan to sell advertising, and find other private sources of funding to cover operational costs. What Mayor Cranley wants is a guarantee. And, that funding has to be located in a hurry. Next Thursday, December 19th, is the deadline from the Federal Transit Administration to resume work. Otherwise, they have said the City must repay the $45 milllion in federal grants. Cranley says he will ask for an extension on that deadline.
The funding could come from corporate or other donations, or underwriting, along with advertising. The Haile Foundation has already pledged money for Smale Riverfront Park, and for Music Hall. And its president, Eric Avner says they'd be interested in helping with the streetcar. Avner says they've already talked about putting together a commission that can find funding for operations. And he says it can be done by next Thursday.
Council member Yvette Simpson, a streetcar supporter, has some concerns. She says none of the other projects, like Smale Riverfront Park and the renovation of Music Hall, have money promised up front, and she says companies and foundations should not have to pledge funding for something that isn't going to operate for another two years.