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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Getting to know Cincinnati's stimulus projects






If you're not already familiar with Cincinnati's stimulus projects then I suggest you get familiar. Cities from around the country have submitted their "shovel ready" projects to be considered for stimulus money. Cincinnati's list has 48 projects* totaling $434,916,420.

Projects big and small fill out the list. You will find Cincinnati's proposed streetcar system, streetscape improvement projects, RecycleBank, green roof projects, street grid for The Banks, stabilization/control of the Ohio River for the new Central Riverfront Park (CRP), forest carbon sequestration, and much more.

A new site - Stimulus Watch - allows you to look through the submitted items from cities all across the nation. The website allows you to vote on each of the submitted items. You can select 'Yes' or 'No' as to whether you feel that particular project is critical and worthy of stimulus money. The site then categorizes these projects nationally by the Most and Least Critical, Most Expensive, and Most Active (by votes).

So far Cincinnati's projects are faring quite well with the streetcar project leading nationally as the Most Critical project according to voters. Also high on the list is the street grid project for The Banks development, bank stabilization for the CRP, and streetscape improvements throughout Over-the-Rhine.

Visit the CINCINNATI PAGE to view all of Cincinnati's included projects, and give your input on what you would and would not like to see the stimulus money go towards locally.

*DISCLAIMER - These projects are not part of the stimulus bill. They are candidates for funding by federal grant programs once the bill passes.

9 comments:

DP said...

A couple stimulus-related streetcar questions:
- Why does the Phase II streetcar alignment study appear on the Mayor's stimulus project list (the one submitted to our Congressional delegation in January)? The stimulus is intended for "shovel-ready" projects - this is clearly identified as a "study".

- It's my understanding that the reason the City was planning to fund the streetcar system themselves (city + private $) was to avoid the strings (e.g. NEPA and New Starts processes) attached to taking federal money. Is that not the case? (The stimulus bill language as currently written does not provide any waivers for these requirements.)

I think the streetcar is a good idea (I'm slowly being converted), but I'm not sure I understand its inclusion in the stimulus discussion.

Anonymous said...

The street car seems pretty controversial. More people are voting against it than for it.

Quim said...

wow, the comments over there make the Fushwrap comments look downright cerebral.
One thing to look at is the number of jobs the projects will create. In the streetcar's case, it is kind of misleading, tho, because the streetcar project is a stimulus package in itself and will, hopefully, create hundreds of new jobs.
Fighting for federal funds in spending bills is downright Ron Paulian. He fights for every cent his district can get & then votes against the entire spending package. Cincinnatians pay federal taxes & if we don't bring the money back home, we will be subsidizing some Palookaville in Alaska.

Randy Simes said...

Anonymous,

It's pretty interesting. The streetcar project had a significant vote advantage (in favor) prior to today. Then all of a sudden weird things started happening like 50 votes going up in a matter of minutes.

I tend to think that the vote is no longer accurate and has been spammed by either a national group or some internet savvy programmers working for those who are opposed to the project and rail projects in general.

Travis Estell said...

Help! Vote "yes" from all of your friends and neighbors' computers! ;)

Randy Simes said...

DP,

Here is the response I got from City Architect Michael Moore in relation to your two questions...


"Relative to the first question, we included the study in the event there is a more expansive concept of “shovel-ready” projects. There has been consideration in the Senate for some project funding for work that is a bit longer term that would keep, engineers, architects, and other professionals employed and in the work force. We have also had suggestions that some state funding may be freed up to advance design and engineering on future planned projects. We will not know what the final rules and guidance are until the bill is reconciled in conference committee and passed by both bodies.



Relative to the second question, we intend to use local funds for the first phase of design and construction. Federal funds would be reserved for the second phase, and later phases, of design and construction. We were hoping that the Bill would offer some relief on the federal requirements so that a larger pool of projects, not just the streetcar project, could be eligible for funding."

HD Notes said...

Great site glad to have found it. On March 12th barney Frank is hosting Cincinnati Change on capital hill and we are meeting on 20 February on that meeting.

Yes we know it is after this round of funding - ie over a trillion dollars in the pipeline. Another trillion or two will be in the coming "bad Bank' deal and we want to bring 2 billion of it to Hamilton county through our Road to Economic recovery and the
National Fairness Campaign which we started at a national meeting, held here.

http://nationalfairnesscampaign.blogspot.com/

The National Fairness Campaign explores past and current innovations to address fairness and capacity building including government minority business development policy & programs.

DP said...

Randy -

Thanks for tracking down answers. I suppose at that "early" point in the stimulus discussion the "rules" weren't well-established, so you might as well throw everything in there and see what sticks.

Since the City seems to be leaning toward seeking fed funds for construction (rather than self-funding), do you know if the project is in the FTA New/Small Starts process yet? Seems like Small Starts would be an appropriate place for it (<$75M in initial request). Based on what I've heard and what was in the RFP, I'm guessing that process has yet to start.

Randy Simes said...

DP,

My understanding is that they plan on funding the project in a manner that reflects the financing plan City Council approved late last year. That plan includes a variety of funding sources both public and private. In that plan there was no federal money for Phase 1.

The public money was coming from the City's Capital Budget, TIF along some of the route, proceeds from sale of Blue Ash Airport, and I believe there was a nominal amount of money from the State.

Phase 2 is when I believe things will significantly change in terms of funding structure as the City has planned to leverage Phase 1 to get federal money for Phase 2 (and beyond). We'll see what happens though. When this plan was first drawn up there was no $900 billion infrastructure stimulus package out there.

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