Construction bids for Streetcar Project over budget | News
CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19)- Construction bids for the Cincinnati Streetcar project
have come in tens of millions of dollars over what a project budget shows the
city had anticipated.
The bids include the cost to construct 3.6 miles of streetcar
tracks as well as stations and a maintenance and operations facility.
The latest budget
for the project available from early 2012 shows $44.6 million dollars budgeted
for construction of the tracks and station and $65.8 million budgeted for other
costs related to the project for a total streetcar budget of $110.4 million
If the city went with the lowest bid of the three they would have
to shell out $70.9 million in construction costs alone and a potential $15
million additional dollars if a judge decides the city has to pay to relocate
Duke Energy's utilities.
If that is the case the budget could balloon to more than $41
million dollars over those early 2012 projections.
The City Administration still has to review the more than
800 line items of the three bids submitted, but say upon initial review they
were surprised at the projections that were submitted.
"They came in higher than we had expected, but again we
put the proposals out with four different entities looking at them," City
Administration spokesperson Meg Olberding told FOX19.
One option is for the city to consider re-bidding the
"Either your incompetent about how you're bidding and how
you priced this project or you're intentionally misleading the public in order
to get the public to support it," councilman Chris Smitherman said.
In a letter he sent to the City Manager's office
"Your office does not have authorization to spend any
more money beyond the $110 million without bringing it back to City Council for
a vote. I am informing your office in advance that any known expenditure beyond
the $110 million without a vote of council would be considered illegal."
For one local businessman the
news of yet another potential setback came as an unwelcomed announcement.
Jean-François Flechet opened up a restaurant on Vine Street roughly a year and a half ago
after learning sometime before that the streetcar would headed down that road.
"If it wasn't for the
prospect of the streetcar I don't think I would have ever have picked this
location," Flechet told FOX19. "I really thought it would have been built
Flechet says he stands behind
the project despite the countless hurdles it has faced including the latest
announcement that bids came in well over what was anticipated.
"I think they do have some
sort of responsibility, I mean people voted on it, budgets have been approved,"
With business as hot as the
griddles, some might argue there is no longer a need to lay tracks out in front
of Taste of Belgium to gain foot traffic.
"Business is doing very well
but to redevelop the rest of Over The Rhine I think that the streetcar would
really help," Flechet said.
As a former economist turned
restaurateur, he argues the project is still worth the dough even if it costs
more than anticipated because he argues it will be an engine for economic
development that will have a positive long-term effect on the surrounding
"I do hope that they build it
and I hope that it's done in a responsible manner," he said.
Even long time supporters of
the project voiced concerns Thursday.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls
released her own memo to the City Manager which stated in part, "… council has
not given the administration a ‘blank check'." Qualls also states, "If these
new numbers are confirmed then I believe it is time for the city to step back,
put the project through intensive value engineering, and bring the project's
cost back into line. I strongly urge you to bring in a project manager/team
that has a proven record in brining major construction projects in on time and
Cincinnatians for Progress, a
pro-streetcar group of citizens who helped defeat two anti-streetcar ballot
initiatives also released a statement Thursday stating:
"Cincinnatians for Progress consider any suggestion of
abandoning the streetcar project to be utterly irresponsible. Not only would it
cost the city millions immediately, it could make it extremely difficult to
seek federal aid for future transportation development.
Federal agencies prefer to allocate funds where they will be put
to the use intended in the manner and on the timetable proposed. For Cincinnati
to suddenly cancel a modest project that has been in the works for more than
five years would brand the city as an unreliable partner for long-term development
We have seen no serious analysis that shows any financial
necessity nor any economic development benefit to be gained from halting the
process. On the contrary, all the evidence supports the streetcar as a source
of growth, with long-term benefits to the entire city. To stop it now would
undermine the progress that has been made in rebuilding the central city, and
threaten prospects for rebuilding the neighborhoods."
Olberding says the bids are currently being examined and the
city's administration is reaching out to all of the city's project partners to
decide the best step forward.
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