For the past year, the Wasson Way Project
has been a point of contention between advocators of public transit and those who want to transform the six and a half mile railroad track into a public bike path.
The railroad, which is owned by Norfolk Southern, runs from Newtown to the heart of Downtown Cincinnati and would give the city a nearly uninterrupted trail running through much of the urban core of the city. Many think it should be saved for potential light rail in the future, but Eric Oberg, of the Rails to Trails Conservancy
thinks the two can work in unison.
Last week, the Wasson Way Project presented their project in front of the Strategic Growth Committee with a goal to show why the project is beneficial and why it should be a next step for the city. Oberg said they also wanted to present that many trains coexists next to recreational trails in many places.
"We wanted to make sure council knew this wasn't a case of either or," Oberg says. "We also wanted to impress upon them that every supporter of the Wasson Way Project is happy to sign what ever needs to be signed so that in the future, if light rail becomes a reality, the trail won't stop it from happening."
The Wasson Way Project is planning meetings with those who oppose the trail to discuss future plans and rather than working against each other, to work together to find a middle ground.
Oberg says the next step for the Wasson Way to move forward is to meet with Norfolk Southern to discuss purchasing the old section of track. This is an important step, because, as of now, the trail is in good condition, but if it sits unused, tracks and bridges could fall into disrepair, making a recreational trail, and light rail, harder to build.
"No matter what, transit will happen there, if and when a transit project gets off the ground," Oberg says. "The long term vision is transit, but what we don't want to see is a six and a half mile corridor sit there and deteriorate."
By Evan Wallis