Cranley in: What's next for the streetcar?

Mayor-elect ran on anti-streetcar platform

CINCINNATI – A day after mayor-elect John Cranley reiterated his biggest election promise, to stop the streetcar project, received a possible offer that might give the city more cash.

Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama invited Cranley to Washington DC to discuss reprogramming $44M in streetcar grants, according WCPO's Kevin Osborne.

Those grants were originally earmarked for only the streetcar and turned down by Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2011.

The city was able to recoup some of that grant money when it brokered a deal with the Obama administration.

Without missing a beat at his election night victory party at The Banks Tuesday, Cranley told a gathered crowd the current city council “should stop spending right away.”

Of course, Cranley does not have the power to carry out that directive until he and three new Cincinnati City Council members take office Dec. 1. On Wednesday, crews were back out, laying the first rails for the mass transit project near Memorial Hall.

But Cranley’s determination has placed the current city council’s $133 million plan back into limbo. It previously survived a scaling when Ohio Governor John Kasich declined $52 million in federal funding for the project and two ballot referendums.

"We're going to get out of the streetcar project, which is too expensive," Cranley told the crowd during his acceptance speech Tuesday night. "We're going to find an alternative."

In an October interview with WCPO’s Kevin Osborne current Mayor Mark Mallory’s spokesman, Jason Barron, outlined the possible price tag of Cranley’s alternative.

If the city breaks any contract for reasons other than performance problems, it still must pay for work done to date, along with the costs to wind down and close a project.

“If the city terminates for convenience, we lose all controls over cost because it’s up to the contractors to determine what costs they have incurred,” Barron said.

In addition, any amount of three federal transportation grants for the streetcar project totaling $44.9 million must be repaid in one lump sum. And CAF, the company assembling and manufacturing five streetcars, would need to be paid for work done and “a reasonable profit,” Barron revealed.

Suspending the streetcar will need majority support of city council as well. Cranley received a boost in that area as well with the election of non-incumbent, anti-streetcar candidates Amy Murray, Kevin Flynn and David Mann.

“We cannot afford a streetcar that does not go anywhere and which is over budget and will require continuing operating subsidies once it is built,” Mann said. “When the governor blocked the money to connect the streetcar with the UC/hospitals area, the project should have been stopped.”

And after the streetcar is stopped, Cranley and Mann are of the same opinion that council must quit selling off city assets as short term solutions to budget deficits.

"We're going to balance the budget in a real way," Cranley said. "We're going to keep our resources"
 

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