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Cincinnati: Wasson Way Trail

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Where's my light rail track?

 

Right here. Pay no attention to that mountain in the background...

22903590026_0beef49642_b.jpgSaltLakeCity-SugarhouseStreetcar-trail1s by Ken Prendergast, on Flickr

 

22308489023_eed4ed8f75_b.jpgSaltLakeCity-SugarhouseStreetcar-trail2 by Ken Prendergast, on Flickr


"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" -- Lady Liberty

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^ I don't believe that rendering is "official" in any way. One of the Wasson Way supporters took jmecklenborg[/member]'s aerial photo and put the trail on it in Photoshop. All of the details are made up, not based on what could actually be funded and built.

 

To clarify, he didn't "take" that photo from me.  He emailed me and I sent him about fifteen photos back in 2013 or early 2014.  And to clarify further, the rendering that I found ridiculous wasn't his overhead one but rather the "sunset" one with all of the mixed traffic on the trail.

 

I agree that depictions of a 5+ mile trail paved in anything other than typical asphalt are unrealistic.  We are actually quite spoiled in this area because very long paved rec trails like the Little Miami are very rare.  In fact ours might be the longest one in the country.  Most are 15-25 miles long, but ours is I believe the only one that approaches 100 miles in length.  There are, by comparison, many rails-to-trails that are longer but are crushed gravel.  Pennsylvania, Missouri, and I think Nebraska each have trails that are 200-300 miles long. 

 

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When I think of the Wasson Way Trail especially in the Hyde Park area, I think of Indianapolis and their Monon Trail which I believe was rails to trails.

 

There is quite a lot of restaurants, etc. along the trail that were once houses and all seem fairly busy.  But the area where all the redevelopmen is runs about 1 mile at most then it just runs behind houses.  Also, I am not certain of Indy incentized home apartment and condo building along the trail, but there is definitely a lot of mid density development within close range of the trail.  I wonder if Hyde Park would be for upzoning those plots along the trail for mid density apartments or condos and if that would ever happen?

 

On the Monon Trail at least, it gets really busy within a 3 mile range or maybe less of Broad Ripple, but then drops off really fast.

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We are actually quite spoiled in this area because very long paved rec trails like the Little Miami are very rare.  In fact ours might be the longest one in the country.  Most are 15-25 miles long, but ours is I believe the only one that approaches 100 miles in length.  There are, by comparison, many rails-to-trails that are longer but are crushed gravel.  Pennsylvania, Missouri, and I think Nebraska each have trails that are 200-300 miles long.

 

Slightly off-topic, but the Dayton/Miami Valley region boasts the largest paved bike trail network in the country, with over 300 miles of trails. It would be exciting to have a bike trail network webbing through all the populated areas of the state. Links like Wasson (and the Kettering Connector in Dayton/Kettering) are critical for making the network viable for utility (trips to the store, commuting, etc.) versus merely recreational trails people drive to for fun and exercise.

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When I think of the Wasson Way Trail especially in the Hyde Park area, I think of Indianapolis and their Monon Trail which I believe was rails to trails.

 

There is quite a lot of restaurants, etc. along the trail that were once houses and all seem fairly busy.  But the area where all the redevelopmen is runs about 1 mile at most then it just runs behind houses.  Also, I am not certain of Indy incentized home apartment and condo building along the trail, but there is definitely a lot of mid density development within close range of the trail.  I wonder if Hyde Park would be for upzoning those plots along the trail for mid density apartments or condos and if that would ever happen?

 

On the Monon Trail at least, it gets really busy within a 3 mile range or maybe less of Broad Ripple, but then drops off really fast.

 

I seriously doubt that Hyde Park would approve any significant up-zoning along the route, which diminishes the potential upside of both the bike trail and future light rail. The best prospects for upzoning are near Xavier around the Montgomery Rd crossing.

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That's what I figured.  They are fighting "commercial creep" in at least one instance where an owner wants to turn over a house to an office.  But it could work well close to Montgomery Road. 

 

I just wonder though what the big justification is for it if it will only be used as recreation?

 

Edit: Is the justification used by Hyde Park residents for building it recreation?

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I don't know.  I just don't see room for two sets of light rail tracks plus a bike path plus a pedestrian path in that Wasson Road photo/rendering above.  And all the street crossings makes me think rail should be underground for this portion (not a subway with stations but just a tunnel through this portion.) It'd be great if they could dig it up and place a concrete tunnel for future use before they build out the bike trail but I don't see them having the funds or political will to do something like that. Given that it may be 20-30 years before we even get light rail as far as Xavier (including building a Mt. Auburn Tunnel) I wonder how much effort it's worth to fight the "must include rail" battle in the present. Even having a walk/bike trail like this connect to a light rail station at Xavier would be a huge asset. (Any Trail ROW west of I-71 would absolutely have to be preserved for light rail however for light rail to make it to Xavier.)

 

I would support spending a few extra million to protect for light rail, but I wouldn't want to kill off plans entirely for a trail that didn't include light rail protection.


www.cincinnatiideas.com

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I would support spending a few extra million to protect for light rail, but I wouldn't want to kill off plans entirely for a trail that didn't include light rail protection.

 

Someway, somehow, Cranley will force you to make that choice.

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I don't know.  I just don't see room for two sets of light rail tracks plus a bike path plus a pedestrian path in that Wasson Road photo/rendering above.  And all the street crossings makes me think rail should be underground for this portion (not a subway with stations but just a tunnel through this portion.) It'd be great if they could dig it up and place a concrete tunnel for future use before they build out the bike trail but I don't see them having the funds or political will to do something like that. Given that it may be 20-30 years before we even get light rail as far as Xavier (including building a Mt. Auburn Tunnel) I wonder how much effort it's worth to fight the "must include rail" battle in the present. Even having a walk/bike trail like this connect to a light rail station at Xavier would be a huge asset. (Any Trail ROW west of I-71 would absolutely have to be preserved for light rail however for light rail to make it to Xavier.)

 

I would support spending a few extra million to protect for light rail, but I wouldn't want to kill off plans entirely for a trail that didn't include light rail protection.

 

Tunnel construction would be relatively inexpensive in the rail ROW since there wouldn't be any utilities, except at cross-streets.  The best way to do this, if the trail is to be done first, is to do a crushed gravel trail with minimal lighting and other improvements. 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Sugarhouse line in Salt Lake City has only one line of tracks, except for at a few stations where there are two sets of tracks. How difficult is it to coordinate inbound/outbound schedules to make that work? I'm just curious if a single set of tracks would work for Wasson Way, or if two sets of tracks would be necessary.

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It would be relatively easy to go down to a single track for that stretch and then back to double-track where the ROW becomes wider. Similar to the short single-tracked section of the Portland Streetcar that connected the Downtown/Pearl District and South Waterfront loops. They recently double-tracked it because of the additional traffic from the new routes.

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If Hyde Park is near the end of the line, then single-track should be fine.  I don't see it penetrating much farther than Marburg or Erie as light rail.  The trail proponents like to say "just put the tracks on the street" but Wasson is already kind of a cluster f*** at its intersections with Edwards and Paxton so I find that to be untenable.  Either way, for light rail and the trail to coexist you probably couldn't have a stop between Edwards and Paxton anyway, because the stops take up that much more room, even if they are single-track, more so if they're double.  The only really feasible stop locations are immediately east of Paxton where Wasson moves about 50' north of the tracks, and west of Madison behind LaRosa's and Mulligan's/Pig & Whistle which would need to have its rear demolished most likely.  I don't think you could squeeze anything in between there, nor would you necessarily want to make the stop spacing more frequent since the trail itself would be a good route to walk or bike along the right-of-way to get to the stops. 

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EXCLUSIVE: Cincinnati identifies a new source to fund Wasson Way

 

The city of Cincinnati is looking for other ways to fund the Wasson Way bike trail, and it has zeroed in on the state of Ohio as a potential source of money.

 

Mayor John Cranley and City Manager Harry Black sent a letter to the Cincinnati Business Committee asking it to ask the state for funding for the trail through Ohio’s capital budget.

 

“The trail utilizes an existing, unused rail corridor and, when completed, will connect eight Cincinnati neighborhoods and the communities of Norwood, Mariemont and Fairfax and 83,000 people living within 1 mile of the trail,” the letter said. “It will provide alternative access to five major development sites, including sites at Xavier University and near Uptown, and will help make our community more attractive to families and to the talented skilled workforce that will propel the economy of the region.”

 

Cont


"It's just fate, as usual, keeping its bargain and screwing us in the fine print..." - John Crichton

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“The trail utilizes an existing, unused rail corridor and, when completed, will connect eight Cincinnati neighborhoods and the communities of Norwood, Mariemont and Fairfax and 83,000 people living within 1 mile of the trail,” the letter said. “It will provide alternative access to five major development sites, including sites at Xavier University and near Uptown, and will help make our community more attractive to families and to the talented skilled workforce that will propel the economy of the region.”

 

 

In a city with forward-thinking leadership, this exact sentence would be used to argue for light rail.

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Wasson Way in line for $1.1M in state funding

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati is in line to get more than $1 million in state funding for construction on a second phase of the Wasson Way bike trail, even as questions remain on how, exactly, the city will pay to buy an old rail corridor for the project.

 

If lawmakers in Columbus approve the $1.1 million in state capital funding, it would go toward a stretch of trail between Montgomery Road and Tamarack Avenue, near Interstate 71 in the Evanston neighborhood. Total construction for that portion is estimated at between $1,260,000 and $2,135,000.

 

The $1.1 million is roughly a quarter of the $4.5 million the city wanted from the state.

 

http://www.wcpo.com/news/political/ohio-state-government-news/wasson-way-in-line-for-11m-in-state-funding

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Cincinnati City Council approved terms of a deal last summer to purchase the corridor from Norfolk Southern for $11.57 million. That agreement is set to expire in July, but the city could opt to pay a nearly $590,000 fee to extend the closing to July 2017.

 

This serious???????????

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Nothing is simple and straightforward when you're dealing with John Cranley.  There's always some catch, always some back-door way he's got to punish you for being well-mannered and sensible. 

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I found an example of a neighborhood fighting conversion of a rails-to-trails trail into light rail...look at the invective from the crowd.  From 1996: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1996-12-06/news/1996341129_1_glen-burnie-ritchie-highway-eighth-avenue

 

If you trace the path of Baltimore's light rail south from DT Baltimore to the neighborhood of Glen Burnie, you will see that the rail system ends at its maintenance facility, just north of the center of this inner-ring suburb's business district.  Beyond that point, a 13-mile freight corridor that would be perfect for light rail is instead occupied by this trail. 

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Seattle is dealing with this exact situation right now. They had a rail line that they "temporarily" converted to a bike trail knowing that a big light rail plan was in progress and it would be converted to rail in the future. Well, that time is here now, and neighborhood residents are fighting against adding transit to that corridor. Once you turn it into a bike trail, you are basically killing your ability to ever run light rail there.

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As long as we get light rail as far as Xavier, I don't really care about Wasson Way re: light rail. A hike bike trail connecting to the Xavier station would be an asset in and of itself. If there are some common sense moves to protect for it we can do now, fine, otherwise it's too far in the future to worry about.

 

I'm more concerned about maintaining a rail ROW on the north side of MLK.  Wasn't clear to me if the rendering of the new UC neuroscience building would do that. Basically since there is no plan for light rail it's hard to argue for people to maintain theoretical ROW as that area develops even though it's feasible now before they start building a bunch of stuff.


www.cincinnatiideas.com

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As long as we get light rail as far as Xavier, I don't really care about Wasson Way re: light rail. A hike bike trail connecting to the Xavier station would be an asset in and of itself. If there are some common sense moves to protect for it we can do now, fine, otherwise it's too far in the future to worry about.

 

I'm more concerned about maintaining a rail ROW on the north side of MLK.  Wasn't clear to me if the rendering of the new UC neuroscience building would do that. Basically since there is no plan for light rail it's hard to argue for people to maintain theoretical ROW as that area develops even though it's feasible now before they start building a bunch of stuff.

 

If you look at the way that UC has built along Jefferson, everything new seems to respect an imaginary mega-widening of that street.  So the sports bubble, Turner Hall, etc.  The building line is about 150 feet from the east side of Jefferson, so effectively about the same width as Central Parkway.

 

I talked to the guy from PB who designed the I-71 light rail line in the late 90s and he said that they were going to go along the north side of MLK, bridge Eden, and then travel under Highland, Burnet, and Harvey.  I imagine that they were going to go under Reading as well.  The space is there right now to pretty easily create a fully grade-separated route all the way from the proposed tunnel portal to I-71. 

 

The Wasson line has been identified as a light rail corridor since the 1970s by OKI.  Then this bike group, led by a guy who I absolutely do not trust, came out of nowhere back around 2010.  I put the plans from the 70s and 90s and early 2000s in his hand.  He still tells people there never was a a plan. 

 

 

 

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My guess is the powers that be in Hyde Park along Wasson Road (Cranley, whoever the guy is you are referring to Jake, etc.) don't want Light Rail because they don't want their neighborhood to change.  No doubt adding Light Rail on that corridor some of the land directly on the line would densify especially on the southside, which isn't what the powers that be want IMO.  But the fact of the matter is that there is huge potential to add density along the corridor there that could really help reel in more of the demographic that wants the suburbia demographic in a city setting

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I live a few blocks from the Wasson Way path and I just want something to happen with it soon.  I would love light rail, but that's a pipe dream right now.  A bike path will be awesome too.  When is this going to happen?  It seems like this is taking way too long for a relatively simple project. 

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Transferring ownership of an active railroad to public ownership is a completely different process than transferring land owned by a typical company to a public entity.  Railroad law is very complicated, always involves federal courts, and so is very, very slow. 

 

Yet we had various Wasson Way proponents advertising that the trail would be constructed within a year of passage of Cranley's failed parks tax.  It was completely impossible, but they kept saying it, like a bunch of wannabe Trumps. 

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Seattle is dealing with this exact situation right now. They had a rail line that they "temporarily" converted to a bike trail knowing that a big light rail plan was in progress and it would be converted to rail in the future. Well, that time is here now, and neighborhood residents are fighting against adding transit to that corridor. Once you turn it into a bike trail, you are basically killing your ability to ever run light rail there.

 

Temporary is often permanent.  Just take a look at the "temporary exit" from 471 S to Route 8 in Newport.  It's a 180 degree bend from the expressway onto Park Street, bisecting 2nd Street with housing and driveways literally facing the ramp itself, not to mention all of the houses located within the bend.  Temporary is just a word people throw around to lessen opposition in the short term when they know that it will be next-to-impossible to correct the situation at a later date.

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City closes on purchase of RR between Montgomery Rd. and Wooster Pike:

http://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/hamilton-county/cincinnati/city-of-cincinnati-finally-actually-owns-rail-corridor-for-wasson-way-project

 

Does this also include the land in Norwood where the yard was?  This is the most valuable piece of land since it could be sold off for 30 homes and has frontage on Montgomery Rd. 

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My guess would be no, but that's an interesting question.  The right-of-way of the main track between Montgomery and Edwards is mostly within Cincinnati, except for one strangely conspicuous spot between Kendall and Burch.  If Cincinnati owns it, even if it's not in the city, I guess that's not unprecedented, similar to the way Cincinnati owned the Blue Ash Airport.  I'm sure Norwood can find a way to squander the development opportunities on Lexington.  The best case scenario I can picture would be cheap apartments with parking along the back, like you see in Oakley (MadMar/Heritage, Oakley Station) or a version of the University Station apartments.  Worse would be some vinyl monstrosities like the cheap Hope 6 crap built up in Roselawn around Seymour and Langdon Farm. 

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Norwood is already exceptionally dense. 

 

Looking around on Google Maps I don't see a lot of park space in Norwood until you get to the far end of Sherman or north of the Lateral - nothing those southern areas can walk to, anyway.  There's the Evanston playground, which is nice, but you can't get to it from Lexington without walking on the thoroughly unpleasant Dana, and the Burwood playground which no one seems to know exists.  I'd propose a linear park along the trail, with trailhead amenities similar to Nisbet.  Could probably even link it to Burwood and get better utilization of it.

 

Sometimes the best development is no development - creating a buffer for that neighborhood with some amenities/attractions may be more valuable than another couple hundred residents.

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I certainly wouldn't call Norwood "exceptionally dense". I'd say it's about average density, and has a higher percentage of single family homes than say, Bond Hill, which has a similar development density. The sprawling parking lots and nearly empty strip malls off Montgomery certainly don't help with the density.

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Indeed, there's a lot of single-family development, and even the apartments have pretty big lots in the southeast quarter of Norwood.  It's actually quite suburban in nature, and when you have lots of yard you don't need much in the way of public parks.  It is unfortunate that the Williams Avenue School has paved its entire property rather than having at least one ball field or something.  Anyway, that doesn't mean a little playground or picnic shelter or something wouldn't be nice, but turning over that entire parcel to parkland would doom it to underuse.  Norwood is broke anyway, so they need to leverage their existing infrastructure for more development, not more emptiness.

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I think Norwood has density by virtue of its large contiguous street grid, more extensive than many neighborhoods in Cincinnati. I've always been surprised they don't have a traditional neighborhood business district to match.  If they had mixed use buildings with street level businesses with apartments above, it might generate more revenue for them than strip mall development. This is a main argument of the website/group StrongTowns.


www.cincinnatiideas.com

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So at best this trail connects Xavier to Rookwood and the Hyde Park Shopping Plaza?


“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

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