Some railroad tracks sitting idle through the city may soon see new life.
On Monday, city leaders sitting on Cincinnati City Council neighborhoods committee approved an agreement that would spend nearly $12 million to get a long-awaited bike trail project moving through parts of the city's east side.
The unanimous vote by that committee has helped clear the first hurdle for the Wasson Way project.
"Over many years the community has really been upset about how the railroad has let this area deteriorate,” said Jay Andress, board president for the Wasson Way Non-Profit Organization.
It's safe to say the tracks probably won't see a train again, but they may soon see new life.
"It'll actually be three lanes. It'll be two lanes for bike riders, and then a third lane for pedestrians,” Andress said.
City leaders voted Monday to enter into an agreement to buy 4.1 miles of the railway now owned by Norfolk Southern Railway Company for $11,757,000. The 4.1 mile portion runs through neighborhoods such as Evanston, Hyde Park, Norwood and Oakley, to name a few.
The entire project is slate to be nearly 8 miles, stretching from near Xavier University to Newtown, where it'll meet up with the Little Miami Bike trail. Organizers say the project will reach at least 12 neighborhoods along its path.
"We have been working with every one of those communities to make sure that the bike trail is actually responsive to the needs of that community,” said Andress.
The full trail is expected to impact about 100,000 people living near its path.
"We are estimating that the Wasson Way bike trail and the connector trails will increase property values in Cincinnati by $87 million, and create all sorts of opportunities,” Andress told FOX19 NOW.
On top of the $11.8 million railway purchase price, a pricetag for construction nears $20 million, but $17 million of that could be covered by federal grant money.
City spokesperson Rocky Merz further broke down the numbers for FOX19 NOW on Tuesday saying, “Design and construction are estimated to cost approximately $21,700,000. The City and the Wasson Way non-profit have already committed $256,426 toward design and environmental assessment work. This leaves $21,443,574 left to fund. Our TIGER grant application is requesting 80-percent of that amount, or $17,154,859. The City and Wasson Way would provide the remaining 20-percent local match of $4,288,715.”
"The TIGER grant that we're going to apply for would provide the money to construct the bike trail. That's the bigger piece of it. If we can get that, I'm confident that, one way or another, we can come up with the purchase money,” said Cincinnati Vice Mayor David Mann.
The city hasn't figured out where that money will come from but the deal gives them at least a year to actually buy the railway with the chance for an extension. The deadline to apply for that $17 million TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant is this Friday.
Once the deal is done, organizers think construction can start as soon as mid-2016.
"It's not an option not to build this,” Andress said.
The full city council is expected to vote on the issue on Wednesday.