Tuesday, August 22, 2000

SORTA near deal on land

Transit center proposed on 2nd St.

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        They still don't know everything it will be used for or who will maintain it, but regional transportation officials this week are expected to gain control of land needed to build a $45.4 million Riverfront Transit Center.

        The Southwest Ohio Regional Transportation Authority will use the land to build the center on a two-tiered Second Street to accommodate cars, buses, commuter trains and possibly light rail.

        If the Cincinnati Planning Commission on Friday follows its staff recommendation and approves transfer of the city owned land, SORTA will pay $2 million to Cincinnati, funds earmarked for Fort Washington Way construction.

        “It's been money that has been promised us for two years,” said John Deatrick, Cincinnati's director of transportation and engineering.

        If the $2 million payment is delayed, the city might be forced to dip into funds set aside for the transit center to pay for Fort Washington Way construction contracts, Mr. Deatrick said.

        The Ohio Department of Transportation will use a combination of federal grants and state funds to pay $44.5 million in project costs. Cincinnati will chip in $917,000.

        Transportation officials developed plans for the transit center after realizing there would be no room for buses to pick up or drop off large groups from two new sports stadiums and the National Underground Freedom Center on the riverfront. That's because the plaza at Cinergy Field where buses usually pick up passengers is being torn down to make room for the new Reds ballpark.

        “Buses can't use Cinergy right now,” Mr. Deatrick said. “We're in our interim operating mode right now, which is definitely not the best.”

        The top level of Second Street will be built for cars and electric-powered light rail. The lower level, to open in fall 2001, will be built for buses and diesel-powered commuter trains.

        Still uncertain is whether light rail or a commuter trains will come to the riverfront — and who will pay for it.

        Also undecided is who will maintain the transit center when it's completed.


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