Newport Commissioner Disappointed in Possibility of Scrapping Cincinnati Streetcar Project

Beth Fennell was re-appointed by her fellow Newport City Commissioners on Monday to represent the city on the board of the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI).

At the end of Monday's meeting she thanked her colleagues and said she hoped to continue Newport's "winning streak" at securing funds from the organization, and then expressed dismay at the possible cancelation of the Cincinnati streetcar project, something newly elected Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has vowed.

"There's a lot of chatter about the streetcar," Fennell said. What disappointed the commission about the possible scrapping of the project was the future possibility of looping it through Newport and Covington. "There is already infrastructure in place in some fashion to bring that to Newport, but if it dies in Cincinnati, that's another story." That infrastructure includes the Purple People Bridge that could possibly host light rail tracks in the future, she said.

"I think it may be a dead project." Fennell encouraged residents in Northern Kentucky who support the streetcar project to make their feelings known.

The streetcar was a constant theme in this year's Cincinnati mayoral race in which former city councilman John Cranley campaigned on a platform that included stopping the project. He easily defeated Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a streetcar supporter, earlier this month.

Stopping the project would cost $125 million, $8 million less than completing it, according to the project manager, as reported Thursday by the Business Courier. More than $30 million has already been spent and the rest of the sum comes from $45 million in federal funding that would be lost and the $30 - 47 million needed to shut it down, the report said.

Fennell recalled in the early 2000s when a study was done that looped the streetcar through Northern Kentucky's river cities but said the plan ultimately "died on the vine". She remained optimistic that one day light rail would arrive in Northern Kentucky, too.

"I found it exciting that they were going to do it in Cincinnati," she said. "Any forward-looking city has a streetcar or light rail." 

"(Cranley) is getting a lot of input from people asking him to rethink it. It will cost a certain amount to kill it so I'm hoping he has a change of heart."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Rendering of Cincinnati streetcar