Will push to finish Cincinnati streetcar save 2016 Republican National Convention bid?

Columbus cites lack of public transport for loss

CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati streetcar project could be the piece of the puzzle that saves the city from a fate suffered by Columbus in the bid to host the 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC).

Columbus leaders said this week a lack of public transportation is the reason the city was taken off a short list to host the RNC.

This comes after Cincinnati’s decision in December to continue construction of its hotly-debated streetcar. Cincinnati is currently one of six finalists being considered to host the RNC during the next presidential election.

Columbus City Council President Andy Ginther said at a news conference the GOP snubbed the city because there is no definitive way to travel through it quickly, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

“One of the missing pieces (in bidding for a large convention) was the ability to get around our city easily,” Ginther said.

Hamilton County Republican Chairman Alex Triantafilou told WCPO on Feb. 17 that Cincinnati's bid package sent to the Republican National Committee included the city’s controversial transportation and economic development project.

“Isn’t that funny?” Triantafilou said. “It’s been interesting for several Republicans, myself included, to list (the streetcar) potentially as one of the reasons why they ought to come here.”

Like Cincinnati's Metro bus service operated by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, Columbus has a network of bus routes operated by the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA). The agency recently launched a downtown circulator route known as Cbus similar to Washington, D.C.’s Circulator buses. But Ginther said that wasn't enough.

Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City and Las Vegas were also chosen as finalists to host the GOP convention.

Dallas, Denver, Cleveland and Las Vegas each have train systems like light railways and monorails.

Construction on the first phase of Cincinnati’s streetcar is scheduled to be finished in April 2016. The RNC will be held two months later in June 2016.

The streetcar’s budget for its first phase – funded through federal and local sources – is $147.81 million.

The first phase will let riders travel around a 3.6-mile loop – from Second Street (at The Banks on the riverfront) to Henry Street (just north of Findlay Market in Over the Rhine) and back.

Western & Southern Financial Group CEO John Barrett is leading the effort to get the convention to Cincinnati.

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