As part of deal to settle costs, Duke Energy sues Cincinnati over streetcar

CINCINNATI - As part of a deal between Duke Energy and Cincinnati, the utility company is suing the city to determine who should pay to relocate utilities as part of the streetcar project.

Duke filed the lawsuit late Thursday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, one day before its deadline to do so.

Mayor Mark Mallory announced Feb. 1 that Duke and the city had agreed to let a court decide who is responsible under Ohio law for paying utility relocation costs stemming from the project. The two sides want a declaratory judgment in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, and agreed to abide by the ruling after any appeals are exhausted.

To move the issue before a judge, Duke had to sue the city before Feb. 15.

"This was consistent with the agreement that the city and Duke reached two weeks ago," said Blair Schroeder, a Duke spokesman. "Both sides recognized they would be going to court to resolve this."

The city is willing to pay $6 million to relocate Duke's utility lines, but Duke insists it will cost at least $18.7 million and possibly more.

City officials call that estimate inflated, and think it includes improvements not related to the project.

"This lawsuit filed by Duke Energy should not be misinterpreted to reflect a major conflict between Duke Energy and the city of Cincinnati," Schroeder said.

"We have simply reached an impasse regarding who bears the cost responsibility and have now agreed with the city that this issue will best be resolved through the lawsuit," he said. "The agreement allows construction to proceed while we obtain a legal determination on certain issues created by the right of way ordinance."

Cincinnati's planned $110 million-plus streetcar system would involve a 3.6-mile looped route that would extend from the riverfront through downtown and north to Over-the-Rhine, ending near Findlay Market.

It later would be expanded to the uptown area near the University of Cincinnati and several hospitals.

City officials hope to have the system open in time for the All Star Game in July 2015.

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