Cincinnati officially broke ground on it’s modern streetcar system on Friday February 17th, 2012. The ceremony took place in the street in front of Memorial Hall in the heart of the historic Over the Rhine neighborhood. The location was fitting as streetcar tracks from yesterday’s system still reside in the brick paved street in front of Memorial Hall and made a great setting for what will continue a tradition of multimodal transportation options for the citizens of Cincinnati.
Federal Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was on hand for the ceremony as was Mayor Mark Mallory, city council and the Father of the Streetcar, John Schneider. Joining them, were hundreds of supporters. The project marks a firm stake in the ground moment for Cincinnati. Supporters there have fought off two ballot referendums that have openly attacked the project as well as the decision by new Governor John Kasich to pull over $50 million in state funding in the past year that had previously been dedicated to the project.
To be sure, there is a lot of hard work ahead. It will be fraught with controversy likely every step of the way. Currently, there is a dispute with Duke Energy over who is paying for the utility work and by just how much some portions of the utility work need to be located away from the streetcar tracks. The selection of the actual streetcar vehicle itself has not been made but will likely be announced very soon. Construction should be nearly complete by the end of 2013 with vehicle testing commencing then. Revenue service should begin something in early 2014.
The day was marked with a majority of supporters. There were a few detractors. Some of them vocal as you can see from the pictures. Overwhelmingly though, the streetcar enjoyed a huge supportive body on this day. Urban Cincy has good coverage of the day as well along with some video. There is some particularly good footage of John Schneider remarking on the struggles that Cincinnati has had to overcome to get here. The citizens of Cincinnati can feel great about the leadership bringing the streetcar to fruition.
Locally, it will take similar leadership to get the Downtown Indianapolis Streetcar Corp plan off the ground and anywhere near the point where Cincinnati is. The story of Cincinnati and it’s modern streetcar is a good lesson in how to never give up and make sure that as a city, the groundwork is laid to be able to change and adapt as the political landscape changes and new players come into the equation.
Special thanks to my wife for snapping some excellent photos while we were there. Check out her website (www.figarosstudio.com) for equally fantastic photos