|- An asphalt patch replaced one of the cobblestones that was ceremoniously uplifted for the streetcar groundbreaking earlier in the day.|
Just a few hours earlier, hundreds of people gathered outside Memorial Hall. The crowd was estimated at around 400. A lone protester stood on the fringe of the ground - a fitting symbol of how the blatant lying of the opposition failed to stop this project multiple times. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, a Republican from Illinois, lined up with Mayor Mallory, Vice-Mayor Qualls, City Manager Dohoney and longtime rail activist John Schneider. Their shovels uplifted the cobblestones and ground was officially broken on a project that has faced numerous ridiculous challenges, despite strong local support.
I saw the groundbreaking as it streamed live while I worked at my desk. Due to meetings, I wasn't able to go down there. Event though I wasn't standing there among friends at the ceremony, I couldn't help but feel excited. Despite similar projects proven to be major successes, both from an economic and transportation perspective, in countless other cities - many here remained opposed. Talk radio fills the suburban airwaves with nonsense and lies (remember when I disproved Bill Cunningham?). Special interest groups lead by a lawyer from Anderson Township tried to bring forth multiple ballot issues and had a loss handed to them two times. Their tactics of comparing the streetcar to 9/11, blaming the deaths of children on it and generally lying have failed them.
Aside from Detroit, Cincinnati is the largest city without some form of rail transit. That's changing. The streetcar is the first step of what could be a larger rail system and one that complements our existing public transit nicely. This groundbreaking was a victory for those who believed Cincinnati could become something better. As new skyscrapers rise, parks come to life and businesses keep moving to the city - the streetcar will be there to lead it all in.
Whether you like it or not, it's coming. Friday was a great day to be a Cincinnatian.