'Tantalizingly close' to getting on a bike in Cincinnati and riding to Cleveland

Feb 20, 2015

You have a chance to weigh in Friday on a plan to turn railroad tracks between Lunken Airport and The Montgomery Inn Boathouse into a bike and walking trail.The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), one of several key players in the multi-million dollar Oasis Line project, will hold a listening session so the community can give its voice to the plan. SORTA spokeswoman Sallie Hilvers says the organization has already heard from other stakeholders.

SORTA and the railroad that proceeded Genesee & Wyoming Railroad Services purchased the right-of-way in 1993. SORTA, with federal and state money, paid $3 million and the railroad paid $1 million.

The one-hour listening session is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 20, 4-5 p.m., at The Carnegie Center of Columbia Tusculum, 3738 Eastern Avenue.

Ohio River Way has raised $1 million for the $4 million Oasis Line Trail. The City of Cincinnati has donated $200,000. Ohio River Way plans to raise the remainder in private donations. The group says more than 1,200 people have signed its petition. Ohio River Way's Scott Goodfellow says "We are tantalizingly close to getting on the bike trail in Cincinnati and riding to Cleveland."

Between Lunken and the Boathouse, the railroad has two sets of tracks. The plan would pave over the north set of tracks.

The railroad doesn't want that and has plans to use the north set of tracks and said so in a news release.

The trail would interfere with the railroad’s ability to meet the freight transportation needs of these local employers.  Furthermore, on January 27, 2015, IORY provided written notification to SORTA of IORY’s intent to run freight trains on the segment of track that would be paved under the Oasis proposal.  In 1994, IORY purchased the rights from SORTA to provide rail service over this track. Therefore, IORY respectfully requests that the city pursue the trail alignment along the river as opposed to on the railroad.

In addition, Genesee & Wyoming says it's a safety issue. "Quite simply, pedestrians and freight trains do not mix.

Ohio River Way's Goodfellow doesn't agree. He says there are 151 such trails in 41 states and most of them are along tracks where trains are traveling at a high rate of speed. (A train is only allowed to go 10 mph along the Oasis line in Cincinnati.)

Goodfellow sees many advantages:

  • A way downtown for bikers, runners and walkers
  • Development opportunities for communities along the trail (as evidenced in Terrace Park and Loveland)
  • Leverages the Ohio River
  • Will help bring young professionals to Cincinnati

What's next?

Right now the Loveland Bike Trail ends in Newtown at Bass Island. This summer, Goodfellow says Anderson Township will extend it to Rt. 32 at the Beechmont Levy and then eventually connect it to Lunken Airport. He envisions everything being connected by 2017.

Ultimately the U.S. government will have to approve the Oasis plan because federal dollars are involved.