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Columbus - March 2006

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Columbus — Concept of Street Cars Moves Forward

Public Meeting Set to Include Public Opinion

nbc4i.com, March 22, 2006

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Could there soon be a new, yet old way to get around downtown? Mayor Michael Coleman first brought up the idea of rail street cars in downtown Columbus in his State of the City address a few weeks ago.

Columbus could end up with a street car system on Broad and High streets, NBC 4's Elizabeth Scarborough reported.

Coleman announced Wednesday that the Streetcar Working Group -- made up of about 40 area leaders -- will be investigating the viability of street cars in Columbus.

About $250,000 has been invested from various businesses and the city. The group will take the next six months to determine if the street cars are feasible.

Five goals for the working group include examining the economic impact of street cars, the possibility of financing the street cars without a city-wide tax, the structure, and the cost of building and maintaining the concept.

"Reconnecting our neighborhoods, attractions and jobs back downtown," Coleman said.

The group will be applying for a federal grant that could pay as much as a third of the cost.

"We'll be working with experts and consultants in these fields to give us information that will help us reach a consensus about how to move forward," said Adm. Dennis McGinn, chair of the Streetcar Working Group.

Officials said they want the process to be public, and they hope to come to a community consensus in six months. The first public meeting is scheduled for the week of April 17.

Coleman picks panel to study streetcars

Group of 38 to look at bringing trolleys to Downtown area

Columbus Dispatch, March 23, 2006

By Mark Ferenchik The Columbus Dispatch

The panel appointed to study bringing streetcars to Downtown Columbus is almost big enough to fill a trolley car.

Mayor Michael B. Coleman has appointed 38 community leaders to figure out in about six months whether it’s worth the time, effort and cost to pursue federal funds to pay for streetcars.

"We need a better way to connect people," Coleman said as he introduced the group in City Council chambers yesterday. He had announced his desire to pursue streetcars during his State of the City speech last month.

About $250,000 will be spent to hire consultants and to prepare an application for federal funding, if the group chooses that path. The money will come from a partnership between the city, OhioHealth, Grange Insurance, Battelle, Nationwide Insurance, the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, the Columbus Downtown Development Corp. and The Dispatch.

Panel members represent various segments of the city, including neighborhoods, education, businesses and others affected by transportation issues.

"The mayor’s leadership style is very inclusive," Coleman spokesman Mike Brown said. "He wanted to make sure he had a diverse variety of voices."

It’s clear that if streetcars do come back they’ll travel High and Broad streets to Downtown. Beyond that, that’s what this group is to help determine. Its members hail from the Brewery District, Short North, University District, Ohio State University, Victorian Village and Italian Village.

Most of those on the panel have little or no experience with rail systems, which is no surprise in a city that hasn’t had streetcars in decades.

"We’ve got more questions than answers," Councilwoman Maryellen O’Shaughnessy said.

Leading the group is Dennis McGinn, senior vice president of Battelle’s energy, transportation and environment division.

He said the group will look at the economic impact of a system, its ridership projections and its projected construction, operating and maintenance costs. The group will hold town-hall meetings during the process.

Coleman said the group also will travel to look at streetcar systems in other cities.

Cities local officials could visit include Portland, Ore., and Charlotte, N.C., a city and region similar in size to Columbus.

One reason Coleman is pursuing the idea is because of a new federal grant program called Small Starts. It offers funding to small-scale transportation projects that cost less than $250 million overall, and whose officials are looking for less than $75 million in federal money. The Bush Administration looks to spend $100 million in the program’s first year.

Coleman said he doesn’t know how much a system would cost in Columbus, but he said it would not be funded by a tax increase. He has said the streetcar initiative has nothing to do with the Central Ohio Transit Authority’s plans to seek a salestax levy in November.


Trolley may kick-start streetcar plan

Columbus Dispatch, March 4, 2006

By Dean Narciso The Columbus Dispatch

Bill Wahl is wistful each time he steps onto a trolley at Worthington’s Ohio Railway Museum. He can’t help it.

"You’ve really just stepped back into the history of Columbus when you get on,’’ he said of Car 703, which ferried people along Parsons and Neil avenues and High Street into Clintonville during the Roaring ’20s and Depression.

The museum recently announced it would get rid of its steam engine and other rail equipment to focus instead on trolleys.

So when Mayor Michael B. Coleman announced last week his desire for streetcars on Columbus streets, Wahl was ecstatic.

He sent an e-mail to Coleman offering his assistance.

"We should be able to market No. 703 as a part of your vision for Columbus’ future,’’ Wahl wrote. "It needs lots of cosmetic work, but could shine as a link between our history and our future.’’

Yesterday, Coleman read the letter.

"He was all excited,’’ said Mike Brown, Coleman’s spokesman. "He plans to, as quickly as possible, visit it. He wants to see the 703.’’

Coleman said local businesses will donate most of the $250,000 needed for a study to determine how trolleys might return to Columbus. Members of a working group to study the concept will be announced in seven to 10 days, Brown said.

Wahl said he’s thrilled that Coleman’s vision might revive his museum at 990 Proprietors Rd..

The museum’s large gravel lot is empty except in warmer weather, when excursions and special events take place. The hulking trolleys, cranes and passenger cars are in various stages of disrepair.

Wahl said Car 703, which had been restored in 1973, could be returned to "tiptop shape’’ for about $25,000.

Tampa, Fla., used two restored cars among its 11-car fleet, said Jill Cappadoro, spokeswoman for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, which operates the system.

The remainder, nine replica cars, were built by Gomaco Trolley, an Iowa company, and cost $600,000 apiece.

Tampa’s first authentic car was unveiled last year after more than a decade of restoration. The 1923 car had been used as a shed in the owner’s backyard before a railway society was formed to renovate it, Cappadoro said.

"The idea of using that rolling stock is something that hadn’t occurred to me,’’ said Bob Lawler, transportation director for the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

Restoring an old trolley can easily cost $300,000 to $400,000, said John Kallin, Gomaco’s sales manager.

Wahl is just excited that people might begin to share in his passion.

"I’m always amazed at how quiet it is,’’ he said of the cars, powered by 700 volts of electricity. "And there’s no diesel fumes.

"This creates a different ambience than a COTA bus.’’

As for Car No. 703, built in 1924, he said, "It’s beautiful.’’



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