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ATLANTA -- As workers put some finishing touches on the construction of the Atlanta streetcar project, US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx took a peek at the bus-like vehicle that will eventually motor through the streetcar loop. The question of when it will launch remains an open question

"The streetcar will be running by December 31, 2014," Mayor Kasim Reed said after visiting the streetcar shop with Foxx.

Reed's answer was deliberately broad. The mayor is apparently frustrated by delays in the streetcar project, and news media questions about them.

"I've got a very intelligent robust press. So I'm going to stick to December 2014. It will be operational before then," Reed told reporters.

Construction of the streetcar has taken longer than expected and the cost has exploded. Reed says the city is currently in talks with MARTA about partnering to run the streetcar – which is new territory for a city that hasn't had a streetcar system since the 1940s.

The city had originally intended to use a private contractor to run it, and to have the system operating this spring. Now Reed says December, but backers are hoping it will be much sooner -- like sometime this summer.

"We're trying to get it moving quickly. But I just wanted to give you an answer that I could stand by," Reed said.

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