By Joe Wessels
CINCINNATI (Reuters) - Cincinnati's plan to build a streetcar line was dealt a setback Tuesday when a state agency pulled $51.8 million in state funds from the project.
The Transportation Review Advisory Council voted 6-1 Tuesday not to fund the plan, citing budget constraints. State funding represented more than a third of the project's expected cost.
The council last year had given the streetcar plan the highest score of any new project statewide, based on projected impact on economic development, congestion reduction, and other factors. Supporters, who hoped the red cars would bring jobs and revitalize neighborhoods, blamed the council's perceived change of heart on pressure from new Republican Governor John Kasich.
When asked about state aid to build the streetcar on a recent visit to Cincinnati, Kasich said "there's a new sheriff in town."
Melissa Ayers, Ohio Department of Transportation deputy communications director, said the list of projects needing funding far exceeds the available public monies, to the tune of $1.8 billion dollars.
Kasich also has refused $400 million in federal funding for a high speed rail project from Cincinnati to Cleveland.
The city has committed about $64 million to the streetcar project, and the federal government had chipped in about $24 million. Supporters think the plan can still happen, but perhaps at a smaller scale.
"I take the long view," said Michael Moore, the city's transportation director. "It may take you longer to get it done, but you are going to do all you can do to get it done. I'm not giving up on it."
(Writing and reporting by Joe Wessels; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)