Public hearing on streetcar project scheduled for Monday

CINCINNATI - Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls is calling for a public hearing on the status of the Cincinnati streetcar project Monday evening. The hearing will take place at 6 p.m. in City Council chambers.

After being announced in a memo by City Manager Milton Dohoney that the project was $17.4 million short of funding, Qualls is asking the administration to explain both the full costs of moving forward with the project and the full cost to the city should the project be canceled.

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. wrote a memo to City Council explaining the project needs more cash because of higher-than-expected bids for its construction.

Mayor Mark Mallory emphasized that funding for the streetcar project comes from the city's capital budget, not the general fund budget that pays for daily operating expenses of municipal government.

Still, Mallory wouldn't rule out taking money from the city's General Fund, although he said there currently are no plans to do so.

Streetcar opponents dislike that the $125.4 million project needs more money at a time when the city is trying to avoid a $35 million deficit and considering 344 layoffs including layoffs to it's fire and police departments.

A total of $39.9 million of the project's funding comes from federal grants. The remainder comes from various sources including $64 million in bond financing – or issuing debt – by the city.

One of the funding sources is casino tax revenue. City Council has approved spending 25 percent of the revenues for the streetcar.

Cincinnati officials expect $12.7 million in casino tax revenue annually, although Dohoney recently revised the estimate downward to $10 million.

Streetcar supporters contend the system's primary benefit is as an economic development tool. They argue the streetcar would spark redevelopment of vacant or rundown properties along the route.

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