The city of Cincinnati plans to apply for federal grants to build a network of bike trails branching off the proposed Wasson Way route.
The city is preparing to apply for Transit Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER grants, that would help finance the network of commuter bike paths. The U.S. Department of Transportation has made more than $500 million available to cities for transit projects this year.
The city applied with a narrower plan that only encompassed Wasson Way itself in 2014 but didn’t win one of the highly competitive grants. A lone bike trail doesn’t stand much of a chance in the application process,
which favors transportation projects that provide a bigger impact over a wider area. The city hopes it can win federal dollars with its new plan, which will spread out through a number of Cincinnati neighborhoods. City officials say the focus of the project would be creating new opportunity for city residents.
“The grant is looking to fund ladders of opportunity — transportation projects that make our trails, and ultimately our neighborhoods, more competitive by connecting people to jobs and educational opportunities,” said City Manager Harry Black in a statement April 17.
The Wasson Way trail has been in the works for several years. It seeks to build a 7.6 mile path between Xavier University in Evanston and Mariemont. An extension prop;osed in January would carry bikers all the way to Avondale, near major employers like the University of Cincinnati and uptown’s numerous hospitals.
Estimates for the cost of the trail vary depending on whether capability for eventual light rail services along the route are included. Without light rail, the path would cost about $7.5 million.
Mayor John Cranley has made bike trails, including Wasson Way, a priority during his time as mayor, often over on-street bike lanes, which Cincinnati’s last City Council preferred and which some bike advocates say are better for commuters.
The city is also working to build other bike trails in Cincinnati, including one along another set of mostly unused tracks called the Oasis Line. The proposed trail would run from downtown to Lunken Airport, where it would connect with other trails that span the region. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which controls the right of way for the tracks that path would run along, gave its approval for that project last month. Like Wasson Way, the Oasis Line trail could also include light rail in the future.
There are still a number of challenges present in completing the Wasson Way project itself, including the city’s need to acquire right-of-way on mostly unused railroad tracks that much of the route will trace. Norfolk Southern Railroad currently owns those tracks and has yet to sign a final agreement to sell them to the city.