John Deatrick takes helm of Cincinnati's streetcar project

New manager will make $185,000 annually

CINCINNATI - He is the man who oversaw the massive redesign of Fort Washington Way and helped make the troubled Banks riverfront district become a reality.

Now Cincinnati officials are hoping John Deatrick can work his project management magic on the city’s long-delayed streetcar project.

First discussed in 2007 and then approved by City Council in 2008, Cincinnati’s planned streetcar system has faced numerous problems. As a result, its opening date has been pushed back a few times and construction costs have risen.

Those delays have included two voter referendums, in 2009 and 2011, headed by the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes and the local NAACP; and Gov. John Kasich pulling $52 million in promised state funding.

Streetcar construction finally was slated to begin in April, but was delayed again after bids submitted by companies interested in installing the tracks; building shelters and buying ticket machines were higher than estimated.

City Council approved an additional $17.4 million for the project in June. But to help contain further cost increases, the group hired Deatrick as project manager.

Deatrick, who began his job this week, will be paid $185,000 annually.

Originally set to cost $110 million, the local streetcar project now has a price tag of $133 million.

The project is now slated to open Sept. 15, 2016.

Deatrick, 68, previously was the city’s transportation and engineering director, before retiring in 2002. He managed the multimillion-dollar reconstruction of Fort Washington Way in the 1990s.

Later, Deatrick worked on Washington, D.C.’s streetcar system and Baltimore’s light rail project, before returning in 2008 to be project manger for The Banks riverfront district for Hamilton County.

WCPO Digital asked Deatrick about his new job and what challenges he sees ahead.

Q: What is the first task you will work on as the new streetcar project manager?

A: I plan on total immersion in the project and going on the road to spread the word and take input – vision, goals, objectives, people, communication plan, risk analysis, plans, specifications, budget, grant agreements, contract for construction, contracts for external consultants and (Metro, which will operate the streetcar), ongoing utility work and franchise agreements including Duke (Energy) work records and permits that they are submitting, and any clarification of the design of the system or of the cars.

Q: Do you believe it is possible to reduce the cost of the streetcar project's first phase, or do you see your job as containing costs to the present level?

A:  The target is getting the best value for dollars spent.  That would include cutting unnecessary items, controlling “great ideas” that will come up and not letting them in the door unless they bring funding or money saved (there will be future contracts for those items), insuring good relationships in the team and with stakeholders, businesses and residents through insuring internal communication is functioning well and insuring external communication is functioning well and that both the internal and external systems identify good ideas and solve supply chain and site coordination issues before they become a problem.

(We also need to ensure) that feedback loops exist to improve performance, insuring the contractor is supplying what we specified, identifying and attacking anything with high risk before it an become a problem, insuring contractor is maintaining or improving scheduled performance to avoid them trying to recoup their potential inefficiencies or learning curve through unnecessary delay claims, and helping everyone have a good time.

Q: The latest opening date for the streetcar is Sept. 15, 2016. Do you think that is doable?

A:  Yes, but it will take constant vigilance from all members of the team, cooperative stakeholders as well as those affected by construction.

Q: What is the status of the five streetcars being built for Cincinnati? Has construction begun?

A:  The preliminary design review took place in June, (and) final design review is scheduled for November.

CAF has begun placing orders from suppliers for components such as seats, electrical components and other parts. CAF will begin fabrication of car bodies in November in Zaragoza, Spain, and they will be sent to the CAF plant in Elmira, N.Y., where the vehicles will be assembled.

The first vehicle is expected to arrive in Cincinnati in March 2015 to begin testing on the Over-the-Rhine loop.

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