CINCINNATI, OH— It has been a long time since a streetcar was just a streetcar here.
Instead, a $133 million project to build a 3.6-mile streetcar line through downtown has come to represent, depending on whom you talk to, a debt trap that will sink the city or an ambitious development effort that is central to Cincinnati’s revival.
And when the debate ended last week in an unexpected last-minute victory for the streetcar proponents, it was seen as both a vote of confidence in the city’s future and a reminder of how tenuous support for the project had become.
On the brink of being shut down, the project was saved by a successful petition drive and a written commitment, provided by the Haile U.S. Bank Foundation, from about 15 private backers to pay up to $9 million in operating costs, if needed, over the line’s first decade.
KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) – When the auto plant here closed, this prosperous Wisconsin port city on Lake Michigan lost more than just its largest employer. Its sense of vitality seemed to drain away, and city leaders set out to find something that would inject life into the brick-storefront downtown while the economy went through a transition.
What they came up with was obsolete: an electric streetcar. Kenosha decided to bring back a relic that once clattered around metropolitan areas in pre-war America but was abandoned on the march to modernity.
More than a decade later, the experiment is now popping up all over. More than 30 cities around the country are planning to build streetcar systems or have done so recently. Dallas, Portland and Seattle all have new streetcar lines. Most projects involve spending millions of dollars to put back something that used to be there – often in the same stretches of pavement.
“It goes along with the revival of inner cities all over America,” said Steve Novick, transportation commissioner in Portland, which has spent more than $250 million to replace the lines the city shut down in 1950. “It’s too bad that they weren’t kept here all along.”