Cincinnati streetcar supporters announce ballot initiative to continue project

City has until Dec. 19 to keep federal funds

CINCINNATI -- Supporters of the Cincinnati streetcar announced Monday that they will rush to collect signatures to put a charter amendment to finish the project on the ballot.

The Dec. 19 deadline for pulling federal grants doesn't leave much time for filing petitions, Ryan Messer of the We Believe In Cincinnati coalition pointed out.

RELATED: Read the proposed referendum.

Messer said he hopes the group can deliver 12,000 signatures - more than double the 5,700 needed - by next Saturday. He said the state constitution would require an election within 60 to 120 days. That would mean a special election before May.

Mayor John Cranley announced via Facebook that the Federal Transit Authority is giving Cincinnati until midnight Dec. 19 to decide whether it will go ahead with the streetcar.

If Cincinnati cancels the plan, the FTA will pull its $44.9 million in grants and the city would likely have to pay back the federal money already spent.

Last week City Council voted to suspend work on the streetcar pending an independent review of the project.

Cranley’s office has also signaled that even if the majority of council votes to move ahead with the project, he reserves the right to veto the streetcar. If that happens, it would take a supermajority of councilmembers to override the veto.

Messer addressed two issues cited by streetcar opponents by saying the group wants to establish a private-public partnership to cover operating costs and by proposing a special assessment district to pay for streetcar operating costs that would extend to up to 1,500 feet from the line.

Training for petition circulators will occur at 6 p.m. Tuesday at First Lutheran Church, 1208 Race St, in Over-the-Rhine.



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