Variety of Funds Will Pay for Streetcars

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The proposed streetcar system would feature vehicles in scarlet and gray -- to the delight of OSU president Gordon Gee.
The proposed streetcar system would feature vehicles in scarlet and gray -- to the delight of OSU president Gordon Gee.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman promised there would be no sales, property or city income tax increases to support his proposed streetcar system. Thursday night at city hall he released funding details for where the money will come from.

At the Thursday night meeting Mayor Coleman said it was time that Columbus had streetcars.

“This is the time for a sleek, modern, electrified, streetcar rail system along our city’s spine,” Coleman said.

Ohio State University president Gordon Gee lent his support.

“The thing that I insist about is that the cars be scarlet and gray,” Gee said. “And they are.”

The downtown to Ohio State University streetcar line would cost $103 million to build and $4.5 million annually to operate. Coleman had said days before that 80 percent of the cost would be paid by stakeholders in the benefit zone – the areas adjacent to the route. That worried audience member Michael O’Dell. <br"What's your plan within the benefit zone or the city for taking funds from the hotels and restaurants that support this community?"

Capital South’s John Rosenberger explained that there won’t be any. The project, according to Rosenberger, would be financed over a 25-year period. The first year’s cost would be $6.9 million. Combined with the operating costs, the city would need a total of $11.4 million the first year.

The first contributor identified at the meeting: Ohio State University.

“It’s not inappropriate that the university participate in the funding of this streetcar in some manner or fashion,” Rosenberger said. “In our work we have been showing a half million dollars of annual support from the university all without objection and in fact with support,” he said.

That’s 500,000 dollars from Ohio State.

“The second entry in our cigar box,” said Rosenberger, “is a new and different charge. It’s a surcharge on paid, off-street parking at 4 percent.

That’s another $1.1 million from commercial parking lots in the benefit zone.

Next a charge on tickets to entertainment and sporting events.

“Again a new and different charge on paid admissions at 4 percent,” Rosenberger said.

That should generate $3.8 million. Next, the cost of riding the streetcar.

“All right, fare income: $700,000,” Rosenberger said.

Now tinker with parking meter rates, said Rosenberger.

“The next entry in our little cigar box is a rate increase on metered parking.”

So expect to pay more at the meters downtown which should raise an additional $800,000.

Then take the $3.6 million the city already makes from parking meters and redirect it to the streetcar project. That’s 10-point-five million. Now add a contribution from the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission of $2 million.

Also expected, a few hundred thousand dollars from naming rights and from the federal government which should be more than enough to get the project off the ground.

But the funding sources aren’t cast in stone. Mayor Coleman warned they’re subject to change.

“We expect along the way to see changes in this scenario.”

Coleman said at the meeting the city will kick in the first $2 million to get the project underway. He wants streetcars rolling up and down North High for the Columbus bicentennial in 2012.

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