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Cincy Mayor Candidate John Cranley: Stop Streetcar Now, in Case I’m Elected

2:30 PM CDT on October 11, 2013

The epic political grudge match over the Cincinnati streetcar never ends.

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Never mind that contracts have been awarded and the project is already under construction. One of the city's leading mayoral candidates, former City Councilman John Cranley, is campaigning on the promise that he will stop the project if elected next month.

A great article at City Beat Cincinnati lays out why this might be the worst idea ever floated by a mayoral hopeful. First of all, by the time Cranley would assume office, in December, more than a half mile of track will have already been laid. Scrapping the project would actually cost the city more than completing it, according to City Beat's German Lopez:

The city could call it quits and still be on the hook for up to $95 million that’s encumbered to developers and suppliers involved in the project, on top of the $22 million the city has already spent, according to the city’s monthly streetcar progress report.

Meanwhile, completing development and construction of the 3.6-mile streetcar line would cost the city $88 million. The rest will be financed by $45 million in federal grants specifically allocated to the streetcar project.

Furthermore, if the city abruptly cancelled its contracts with builders Messer and CAF USA it would likely face costly litigation. That's not to mention the damage the city's credibility would suffer with the federal government and its partner firms.

Rather than backing down when presented with these facts, Cranley is asking that the project be delayed until after the election to help minimize the cost of halting it, saying that the planned construction schedule is unfair and "political." Never mind that delaying the project would violate city contracts with the construction firms and also do a disservice to the handful of developers that have in recent weeks proposed major projects for the streetcar corridor.

Even if Cranley were elected he wouldn't have the power to unilaterally halt the project without a majority vote from City Council, and right now a majority support the project. And Cincinnati voters have already voted twice to continue the streetcar, so it's not even clear why Cranley thinks this is a winning political strategy. A political scientist interviewed by City Beat speculated he might be trying to "differentiate" himself from his chief opponent, fellow Democrat Roxanne Qualls.

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