Monday, January 16, 2012

Streetcar is display of engineering and fiscal irresponsibility; City announces it will start construction without funds in place to complete project

COAST opposes the Streetcar project not just because it is bad in concept, but because we also know it will be a disaster in implementation.  Unfortunately, this is playing out just as COAST expected.

First, the engineering disaster:

The City's original streetcar budget allotted only $6 million for relocation of underground utilities.  As Dan Monk of the Cincinnati Business Courier has ably reported week after week, the actual costs are now more in the range of $40 million.  Mayor Mallory's plan?  He intended to shift those expenses to ratepayers of Duke Energy, Cincinnati Bell, MSD and the Water Works.

Only, that plan hit several buzz saws.  Courageously, the County Commissioners under the leadership of Chris Monzel passed a resolution forbidding MSD from paying any utility relocation costs.

Additionally, Duke Energy and Cincinnati Bell, according to Business Courier reports are steadfastly refusing to pass these expenses onto ratepayers.

Only the Water Works, which is controlled by Council, has decided to move the lines at the expense of ratepayers.

Then, here comes the disaster: Since MSD, Duke and Bell refuse to move their lines at their own expense, it is the City's plan to build the streetcar ON TOP of the utility lines, an engineering calamity of epic proportions, as the cost of maintenance of the lines will skyrocket and streetcar service will be interrupted every single time utility maintenance work is needed.

Second, the fiscal disaster:
Now, here's the worse part: In this week's Business Courier, City spokesperson Meg Olberding says: "We don't have all the answers yet, but most big projects don't have all the answers at the start."

Olberding's comment means that the City does not have a plan to cover that $40 million. They intend to start construction without a plan to pay these costs, hoping and praying that the money will just rain in on the City as construction progresses.     
Remember, the State of Ohio has outlawed use of state funds for the project, and the feds are broke.  That means the cost of overruns will fall squarely on the shoulders of Cincinnati taxpayers.

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