Cincinnati Streetcar vehicles arrive this fall for testing

New nonprofit will seek sponsorships

CINCINNATI -- You could see streetcars rolling through Over-the-Rhine by year's end, but you'll need to wait nearly another year to ride.

The first of five vehicles is expected to arrive in mid-September 2015; another arrives the following month. They're the first rail vehicles in the US from Spanish manufacturer CAF.

COLUMN: A real, (almost) live streetcar

The vehicles have to go through a federally mandated testing process on Cincinnati's tracks before passengers are allowed aboard: Each one of the five vehicles has to run for 500 kilometers (that's about 310 miles) before it can be put into passenger service.

"We're gradually sort of opening a box here," streetcar proponent John Schneider said. "We're undoing the ribbon, taking the lid off the box, and a year from now, it's going to jump out, and we're going to have our streetcar."

At first, the vehicles will be towed through the loop, making sure there are no obstacles; then, in November, they'll run on their own power from overhead lines.

Believe in Cincinnati, the streetcar advocacy group formed in the wake of a 2013 mayoral and council election that threatened to derail the project, met Tuesday night to rally supporters and plan for the grand opening.

"We've got to get out of this trying to make someone guilty or targeting and kind of being finding opposition, and somehow align to ensure that we have a successful streetcar for Cincinnati,"said Ryan Messer, Believe in Cincinnati organizer and Over-the-Rhine Community Council president.

The Haile U.S Bank Foundation announced that it plans to create a new nonprofit, the Cincinnati Street Railway, that will be charged with looking for sponsorships and ambassadors for the streetcar's launch. The name is a throwback to a transit company that operated in Cincinnati from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s.

Eric Avner, Haile Foundation vice president and senior program manager, said the nonprofit would work with both the city of Cincinnati and the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority to some extent, but that it wouldn't be involved in planning, safety or cleanliness of the system.

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