Friday, August 3, 2012

City staff wants design of western riverfront trail to proceed

A proposal for a multi-use trail along Cincinnati's western riverfront should proceed to the design phase, according to the City's Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE).

The Western Riverwalk, envisioned by the West Side Summit's River West Working Group, would connect the 13 miles between the Mill Creek and Fernbank Park. From a proposed park at the confluence of the Ohio River and Mill Creek, it would continue eastward to The Banks, tying in with the Ohio River Trail.

David Zelman, a Riverside resident and project architect at FRCH Design Worldwide, told Building Cincinnati that support for the proposal he wrote is building.

"We have been working with stakeholders across the region, and have found broad support for this vision," he said. "The trail will allow recreational opportunities by connecting existing parkland along the riverfront, and provide connectivity to established historic neighborhoods."

Because the plan is largely conceptual, DOTE staff visited portions of the proposed site with members of the River West Working Group, in addition to staff from the Cincinnati Parks, the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, and Hamilton County Parks.

DOTE Director Michael Moore said in a recent report to City Council that some issues will need to be addressed, such as property ownership, railroad crossings, pinch points, and steep grades.

To Zelman, these are fairly minor issues.

"We know that there is a 'pinch' point near Galvin Ave. where the road, rail, and shoreline create a tight squeeze," he said. "Since this duration of this area is rather short, we know that this can be addressed. Also, we have been working hard to educate local businesses that the intent of the trail is to provide a higher use for vacant and underutilized property. At this point, the preliminary route does not displace or disrupt any business activity in the area, and any crossing of the railroad tracks are planned to be at established locations where permissions to do so are already in place."

Other issues include some developed and to-be-developed properties, such as the former Conrail site in Riverside and the former Hilltop Basic Resources site in Lower Price Hill.

"It is expected that a new roadway into the [Conrail] site will be necessary, with an access from River Road," Moore said. "A bike trail/shared path along the north side of the new road could connect Fairbanks with Idaho, offering a good connection from Bold Face Park to Gilday Park. It was also determined by the group that an alignment north of the tracks may be possible between Conrail and Hilltop, eliminating the need for track crossings and utilizing city-owned properties along the south side of River Road."

The Hilltop site also will require additional planning and design, as accessing it would require crossing active railroad lines – a problem that will be compounded when the Southwest Connection is reconstructed to tie the CSX lines in with Cincinnati Union Terminal in anticipation of train service to Chicago.

"We understand that this would be on existing rail lines, and welcome the opportunity to learn more about the status and viability of this project along the western riverfront," Zelman said. "We believe at this stage of planning there are tremendous opportunities to integrate planning for both commuter rail and the Western Riverwalk."

"Since the City purchased this site as part of the Waldvogel Viaduct Project, there is time to consider these issues while the property is restricted by construction activities into 2014," Moore said.

DOTE staff has begun to edit maps from the Western Riverwalk vision plan to reflect current conditions, and hopes to jumpstart phase one – a 2.2-mile segment from the Hilltop site to Gilday Recreation Complex – by this fall.

"We look forward to continued collaboration with the riverfront stakeholders and other advocates of a western riverwalk, so that west side communities will benefit from such amenities that have been planned and initiated along the eastern and central riverfronts," Moore said.

Previous reading on BC:
Contested Lower Price Hill riverfront site approved for recreation, housing (5/29/12)