A group of residents from several Cincinnati neighborhoods spoke at the June 7 meeting of Cincinnati City Council's Quality of Life Subcommittee. Their subject? A recently closed railroad spur and a proposal to change it into a 6.5-mile cycling and walking path.
"This could really serve as an important connector for the many [multiuse path] projects Cincinnati has going on," said project advocate Jay Andress.
The proposed project would convert a Norfolk Southern Railroad spur into a path that would connect with the Little Miami bike trail in Newtown and run into the heart of downtown. Advocates at Tuesday's meeting pointed out that the path would only cross seven roads in its entire length, making it a true rarity: a nearly uninterrupted trail running through several neighborhoods in a major urban area.
But beyond the health benefits and transportation options that the path could provide, some residents at the meeting brought up another point: building the path could resolve a growing problem with the semi-abandoned line.
Hyde Park Neighborhood Council President Anne Gerwin said the point where the line crosses Wasson Road has been a maintenance and safety issue for years. "We struggle many times each year to have the city and railroad maintain it," she said. The neighborhood's council passed a resolution supporting the project.
Likewise, Hyde Park resident Lindsay Felder, who said her home is within sight of the track, said there's been a visible deterioration of it - and an uptick in people loitering along the weedy path - since it became inactive in 2009.
"We've always wondered about the tracks," she said, explaining that she began going door to door to drum up local support after meeting Andress and learning about the proposed project.
"We see it as a great upcycling of existing property that is underutilized," she said.
Subcommittee chair Laure Quinlivan said there are a number of details to clarify before the project moves further forward, such as determining if Norfolk Southern has future plans for the line, and if an arrangement can be made that would allow the city to adapt the path into light rail if that becomes a future transit option.
"This is really a great proposal," she said. "The best ideas don't always come out of City Hall. If we could make this happen, it would be such a great asset to so many residents."
Story: Matt Cunningham
Photo: Wasson Way Project