Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cincinnati supports West Side river trail, but money an issue

The City of Cincinnati fully supports the idea of a Cincinnati Western Riverwalk extending along the Ohio River west of Downtown, but funding remains an issue.

According to a May 15 report from the City's Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE) and Cincinnati Parks, the project could be broken down into phases to allow for an analysis of alternatives, design work, site preparation, construction, and maintenance.

That work could start at the Gilday Recreation Complex, which, since improvements are already underway, would likely only cost $360,000 to get up and running. But future phases, from the Gilday Recreation Complex to the Southside Avenue bridge and from the Southside Avenue bridge to an area near the Waldvogel Viaduct and the Mill Creek could cost $2.2 million and $6.6 million, respectively.

Planning for these phases, collectively known as Phases 1A-1C, are estimated to cost $660,000.

Eventually, the trail would extend for 13 miles from the Mill Creek to Fernbank Park.

The West Side Summit's River West Working Group first submitted the idea for a bike-hike trail to the City in January 2012, leading to a study of the proposed trail's property ownership, railroad crossings, topography, land use, and flood plains.

The most recent meeting, held March 27 between DOTE, the River West Working Group, the Hamilton County Park District, Cincinnati Parks, the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, and the City's departments of Planning and Buildings and Economic Development, produced several items that need to be addressed.

Of the most importance to Cincinnati commerce is the Southwest Connection, which would eliminate a pinch point between the CSX and Genessee & Wyoming (formerly RailAmerica) railroads and River Road, providing upgraded service – which could be used for passenger rail – to Cincinnati Union Terminal through the former Hilltop Basic Resources site.

In May 2012, the City voted to rezone the 31-acre industrial site to residential and recreational uses, effectively killing a proposal for a barge-to-rail terminal on the site.

URS Corp. has been enlisted to reestablish the Southwest Connection across the Mill Creek, which could affect any future trail.

A visioning session for the Hilltop property was held on May 4, but no use has yet been decided. Stakeholders have suggested support for a passenger rail terminal on the Hilltop site, in addition to public access to the river.

And the City is working with property owner Al. Neyer, Inc. on a memorandum of understanding to construct a portion of the trail along the northern part of Neyer's portion of the old Conrail transfer station site in Sedamsville, adjacent to a new manufacturing, office and warehouse facility being built by Peter Cremer NA.

The City will continue to negotiate with owners of small parcels along the river to provide the greatest degree of access to trail users and will continue planning and design work, the report said. It will also continue to seek funding and will meet no less than bi-monthly with the River West Working Group to pursue the project's obstacles.

Previous reading on BC:
City staff wants design of western riverfront trail to proceed (8/3/12)
Contested Lower Price Hill riverfront site approved for recreation, housing (5/29/12)