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Could the streetcar expand to Price Hill?

CINCINNATI, Ohio (Angenette Levy) -- More than 50 years ago, streetcars glided along the streets of Price Hill.

There was a streetcar stop near the intersection of Glenway Ave. and Ferguson Rd.  If Pete Witte gets his way history will one day repeat itself.
"When I look at it I think transportation is a critical element for future neighborhoods," Witte said. "We have all the things in place that make us a sustainable community so why not start to talk about transit and public transportation options that take advantage of that."
Witte voicing support for a streetcar project may come as a shock to some. He staunchly opposed the project last year.  Now he admits he's flip-flopped. He said he believes the streetcar could revitalize the neighborhood where he grew up and where he's raising his family.  He's seen what the promise of a streetcar can do to a neighborhood like Over-the-Rhine which is experiencing a Renaissance.
"Development. The one thing that Price Hill and Westwood are desperate for are development and people attracted to the community.  So I think we need to throw out our playbook.  I think we need to start looking at ways to attract people's attention," Witte said.
Building a streetcar on the west side would take years. Construction on the first leg is not yet complete and plans for the second leg to the Uptown area have not been finalized.  A new Western Hills Viaduct that could accommodate rail would have to be built and funding would have to be secured to make a west side streetcar route possible.  The current plans for a new viaduct do not include rail.  But, Witte says he's determined to explore the idea.  He's raised $15,000 to pay for a study.  The Haile Foundation, which supports the streetcar project, contributed some of the money.  Witte envisions a streetcar that would connect Price Hill and Westwood.
"It's that last touch. The one thing that connects us to downtown, to Price Hill, connects our business districts together," said John Eby, President of the Westwood Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation.

He also is a member of Westwood Works.  Eby said streetcars used to run on Montana and Harrison Aves.  He believes a streetcar could be an integral part of revitalizing the Harrison Ave. business district, along with the Westwood Square project.
"Let's find out if it really works. And if it does work, let's implement it," Eby said. 
Tom Hodges, a member of Westwood Works, also supports looking at the option of bringing a streetcar back to Westwood.
"I think it could benefit Westwood greatly by connecting the people that are on the outskirts with a business district that's set to be revitalized as we speak," Hodges said.
Pete Witte believes the sky is truly the limit when it comes to reviewing transportation options for the city. He's even looked into Sky Trams, which could connect Price Hill to the Uptown area and downtown to Price Hill and possibly Mt. Adams.
"What I want the west side to do is to get out in front on this subject. Let's start planning, Let's start doing the things that show people A, we're serious and B it's doable," Witte said.
John Schneider, a rail advocate who's been dubbed by some as the father of the Streetcar, told Local 12 News Tuesday that a streetcar traveling from Central Parkway across the Western Hills Viaduct is a "logical route." In the 1990's, Schneider lobbied for Ft. Washington Way to include planning for rail. The structure can accommodate rail.
Local 12 News contacted the city of Cincinnati for a comment on this story. City spokesperson Michele Ralston released the following statement: 
"The vision for the Cincinnati Streetcar system has always been to increase the livability of our neighborhoods by providing enhanced transit options for residents.  Many Cincinnati neighborhoods, like Westwood, Northside, and Hyde Park, grew up around streetcar lines.  Although the current Streetcar phase focuses on the connections between Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, and the Uptown neighborhoods, the new system is designed to be expanded if desired."
Price Hill Will is working on a comprehensive plan for the neighborhood. It will look at the future of transportation on the west side.
Anyone who wishes to discuss the possibility of building a streetcar on the west side can contact Pete Witte on twitter. His handle:  @PeteWitte. He can also be reached on Facebook.

Follow Angenette Levy on Twitter @angenette5 and LIKE her on Facebook




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