City aiming for streetcar track repairs completed by Opening Day

CINCINNATI -- The city would like to see necessary repairs made to Cincinnati's streetcar tracks before Reds Opening Day, city officials said Wednesday.

In a special afternoon session, council's transportation committee approved a plan that would close the Downtown loop of the 3.6-mile route for up to four days later this month.

Streetcar project manager Chris Eilerman and Assistant City Manager John Juech briefed the committee on four options to repair concrete slabs housing the streetcar tracks on Walnut Street near Ninth and Court streets. The concrete there is beginning to crumble but remains safe for streetcar operations.

The committee approved the option recommended by the administration. It calls for crews working 24 hours per day for two days to demolish the faulty concrete, followed by two days of re-pouring concrete and letting it cure before reinstating full streetcar service.

The repairs are covered under warranty and will not require additional city funding, but the service interruption could mean a dip in fare revenues during the construction period. It was unclear whether contingent costs, such as lost fare revenue, would be covered by the construction warranty.

Other options offered nighttime-only construction with streetcar operation during non-work periods, but Eilerman said they would mean lengthier construction periods and could jeopardize the vendor's warranty.

"This could be conceived as a deviation from the contract specification. It could actually rise as a dispute at some point if this issue were to resurface," he said.

The warranty specifies that the streetcar may not operate overtop track flooring concrete while it is curing.

Vice Mayor and committee member David Mann expressed concern, asking if the concrete problem might arise elsewhere along the route.

Eilerman responded: "It was just something with the concrete that was poured at that time. We're pretty confident that these are the only two areas we'll have to deal with at this point."

The approved plan will require the city to waive an ordinance prohibiting heavy construction work and jackhammering at night.

"The city engineer has the authority to override that ordinance, although we do only do so with caution and careful consideration," Department of Transportation and Engineering Director Michael Moore told the committee.

In a memo last week, City Manager Harry Black raised the possibility that the streetcar might have to be shut down during repairs. Black said the administration has known about the faulty concrete since October but impending winter weather at the time prevented immediate repair work.

The four-day construction period will begin on or around Monday, March 20, two weeks before Reds Opening Day on April 3.

Pat LaFleur reports on transportation for WCPO. Connect with him on Twitter (@pat_laFleur).

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