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Community Response to Halt of Cincinnati Streetcar

Updated: Thursday, December 5 2013, 12:26 PM EST
CINCINNATI (Angenette Levy) -- Following three days of public comment and debate, Cincinnati city council voted to "pause" construction of the city's controversial streetcar system by an unsurprising 5-4 vote.

Council members voted as expected.

The "yes" votes said they want to see the results of an independent study of the cost to complete the project versus the cost of canceling it before making a final decision about the project's future.
Before the vote was taken, council member Yvette Simpson made a last minute pitch to keep construction going while the study was conducted.

Simpson and Wendell Young said a private donor had come forward and offered to pay $75,000 a day for seven days to fund scaled-back construction. It's estimated the current construction level costs between $50,000 and $100,000 per day.

Streetcar supporters saw a glimmer of hope when council member David Mann entertained the proposal briefly but then decided to vote to pause construction.

"We think that's an extremely reasonable offer and we're absolutely baffled that you do not see the wisdom in that, council member Young said.

The fact that the Haille Foundation also offered to pay for the independent study so construction could continue was also discussed.

Mann said hes still not decided on whether the streetcar should move forward.

Absolutely. If the cost of completion and the cost of termination are close to each other I'm in, Mann said.

Supporters have voiced concern the city will lose the $44.9 million the Federal Transit Administration has pledged to the project if construction is halted. Mann seemed optimistic that wouldnt happen due to the citys importance in presidential elections.
Project Manager John Deatrick said he'd never seen a project of the streetcar's size halted once it had started.  In a memo released Wednesday Deatrick said pausing construction could cost the city between $2.5 million and $3.5 million a month due to existing contracts.

But Mayor John Cranley said hed met with the heads of construction companies Messer and Prus to discuss keeping costs down. He said the companies have agreed to work with the city and will perform some work during the pause.
"To the extent that there's work that would need to be completed regardless of whether the decision to continue with the streetcar or not, like fixing up sidewalks, things of that nature, will continue which will help us keep the contract alive and not be subject to a default under the contract, Cranley said.

Council members Amy Murray, Kevin Flynn, Charlie Winburn, Christopher Smitherman and Mann voted to pause construction.
"I plan to support the pause but I will keep an open mind, said council member Charlie Winburn.
Council members Wendell Young and Yvette Simpson also tried to stop the vote by bringing up the possibility of an ethics violation by council member Christopher Smitherman. His brother once had a contract on the project. Smitherman has said he does not have a conflict of interest.
Council members who voted in favor of the delay believe the study could be complete in less than 14 days. They said the pause is intended to be brief.

Meanwhile, disappointed streetcar supporters said they remain somewhat hopeful.
"The next step is awaiting those final numbers. There's not a whole lot we the people can do at this point, said Ryan Messer of We Believe in Cincinnati.
Yvette Simpson introduced a proposed charter amendment calling for the streetcar's completion. It was referred to committee.

Watch video HERECommunity Response to Halt of Cincinnati Streetcar

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