Work on Cincy streetcar resumes after key vote

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CINCINNATI (AP) -- Work on Cincinnati's streetcar was getting back on track Thursday, after the project was saved by a powerful groundswell of citizen support.

Rail delivery was scheduled Thursday with installation work planned for Friday on the 3.6-mile line. The future of the $133 million streetcar was in doubt when city elections last month gave John Cranley a solid mayoral victory after a campaign in which he targeted the project as too costly and not the best way to boost the city. He appeared to have enough support on the newly elected City Council to keep his anti-streetcar pledge.

But a grassroots group called Believe in Cincinnati sprang up quickly in the election aftermath to turn around the momentum. It had its beginnings in the living room of sales executive Ryan Messer, who helped mobilize more than 1,000 people who were unhappy about the project's impending end, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported (http://cin.ci/1ed3DIx ). Supporters, including leaders of the previous city administration, believe it will draw visitors, residents and businesses to downtown.

"We decided we had two choices -- spend the rest of our lives frustrated that the streetcar went the way of the subway, or organize what we believed to be a large group of Cincinnatians who were sympathetic to our passion for the streetcar," Messer told The Enquirer in an email.

Supporters packed city council meetings and drew support from business leaders. Private backers stepped up to pledge funding help, and some council members were also swayed after learning that the costs to end the project could have topped $80 million.

A 6-3 vote by the city council last week revitalized the project, which is set to be finished in 2016.

Chris Finney, attorney for a group called COAST that opposed the streetcar, said Believe in Cincinnati showed the power of an engaged citizenry.

"What concerns us is when people get despondent and stay home and don't engage," Finney said. "There's nothing better than citizen activists rising up."