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Cincinnati tramway survives

The end of three weeks of drama over the future of the tramway in the Ohio city came on 19 December, when Mayor Cranley finally caved in and agreed to let tramway construction proceed to completion. After the new City Council took office on 1 December, a vote was held on 4 December, and by five votes to four, it was decided to suspend all construction work while an independent audit was carried out to determine the cost of cancellation versus the cost of completion. In the meantime the new mayor went to Washington, to meet President Obama and FTA administrator Pete Rogoff. From this a deadline of 19 December emerged for a decision, or USD 44.9M in federal grant would be withdrawn. The mayor indicated that his main area of concern was not the capital cost, but the ongoing revenue subsidy of up to USD 2.4M/year.

Streetcar supporters started collecting signatures for a petition to trigger a special election on a city charter amendment that would require the line to be built, and easily reached the 6000 signatures needed. The regional transit authority SORTA announced that it would assume responsibility for the operating costs, based on assurances of private sector contributions. KPMG were given the audit work and reported on 18 December that it would cost USD 80M to cancel (including USD 34M in payments already made), and USD 105M to complete the project. The City Council Streetcar Committee met on the morning of 19 December to consider this and voted to continue. The mayor called a press conference and announced he agreed, and that the Haile Foundation (an independent foundation dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for residents of Greater Cincinnati) had committed USD 900 000/year towards operating costs. The city council then voted 6-3 to restart the project.

20 December 2013

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