Is That Right? Spending $1M to fix an empty tunnel?

Spending $1M to fix an empty tunnel?

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The reason the Riverfront Transit Center (RTC) has been dubbed the great “Bus Boondoggle” is easy to see once you step inside the empty three-quarters of a mile tunnel that runs under Second Street.

No buses or any other traffic has happened inside the RTC since February when floodwaters from the Ohio River inundated the tunnel with four feet of water, destroying everything from electrical panels to hydraulic pumps that service the elevators.

Here at the RTC, it was a $1-million flood.

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which operates the RTC, says the city, which owns the Center, will rely on insurance and fees already collected to pay for the repairs. Still, the cost is startling considering the RTC has never lived up to its original purpose.

RTC was approved in 1999 and cost $23 million to build. It was an important piece in the rejuvenation of the riverfront, part of the massive Fort Washington Way project, but since it opened in 2003, a light-rail system that was once envisioned inside never materialized, and Metro buses use it only as a layover for their drivers.

Charter buses use it for parking for games and during special events, as well. Occasionally, concerts, like Ubahn, are held inside, too.

So, when it was reported that more money was being used, Local 12 quickly confirmed that by going inside. Even after several cleanings, the walls of the tunnel still bear witness to water. High-water marks line the walls.

The flood waters did not impact the structure itself, but the electric grid and expensive panels were consumed in the water, shorting out and even causing a main box to catch fire. In the mechanical room that services tow elevators in the middle of the RTC, hydraulic oil was washed away, ruining the machines, and security panels in the main control room were ruined.

The official price tag for the cleanup and repairs was $1.2 million. And the RTC won’t be open anytime soon.

"Our contractors estimate that it should be completed sometime around the end of March, beginning of April," said Brandy Jones of Metro/SORTA.

While some may scratch their heads at why more than $1 million is being spent on a facility that never lived up to its vibrant plans, Jones says the RTC was being used every day and will be again once it’s repaired.

So, reports of spending more big money on the often-forgotten Riverfront Transit Center are RIGHT.

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