Ohio may cut even more funding allocated for major transportation projects. According to new reports that emerged late yesterday, Ohio Governor John Kasich is likely to nix a large streetcar project in Cincinnati. A piece in the Cincinnati Enquirer indicates that Mayor Mark Mallory was told by the Governor that he intends to cancel funding for the streetcar project even though funds were already identified by the State’s Transportation Review Advisory Committee. Kasich is trying to close an $8 billion state budget gap and opposes spending nearly $52 million on the project which is supported by state transportation agencies.
As of right now, $150 million in a combination of state and federal transportation funds are planned to go to the project. Of that $150 million just over $51 million is supposed to come from the state and is now at risk. The project’s first phase is expected to cost $128 million and city transportation officials are unsure they would be able to cover that figure if the state nixes its $51.8 million pledge.
Kasich has already rejected $400 million in federal transportation funding for passenger rail service in the state and indicated in his state of the state address that he would not be spending any money on what he considers to be pork-barrel projects. Kasich is not the only Governor to oppose transportation spending, most recently Florida Governor Rick Scott came under national scrutiny for his rejection of federal rail funds.
Ohio’s Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) is expected to rule on the funding allocation next month and is already noting that the public has a generally negative view of the project overall. According to Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jerry Wray, TRAC’s pipeline of projects as projected through 2017 would cost $1.8 billion more than the state has money to fund. A gap which is likely to be a contributing factor to whether Cincinnati gets the streetcar allocation.
City officials are examining options that would keep the project alive – including applying for more funds from the federal government.