Construction of the line began in 1920 and stopped in
1925. Several major attempts were made to revive the project, but
in that era no federal funding was available for local transportation projects.
Ohio had already donated the canal right-of-way, and states did not typically
fund local projects either. During the Depression, there was significant
federal funding for subway construction in Chicago, but none was allocated
to Cincinnati. After WWII, the nation's entire transportation shifted
to expressways, and with 90% federal funding for the Interstate Highway
System (and none for subway projects), Cincinnati used the graded Rapid
Transit Loop right-of-way as the local 10% contribution for construction
of first I-75 in the 1950's and then I-71 and the Norwood Lateral in the
1970's. Therefore the $6,000,000 subway bond issue of 1916 eventually
paid the local match for federally funded expressways along its route.
The U.S. Government began funding subway projects in the 1970's and now
typically provides 50%-75% funding for approved rail projects, including
Cincinnati's proposed light rail network.
The Beeler Report
The Beeler Organization, a New York City consulting firm, produced a 150 page study in 1927 regarding city transit conditions and made 10 recommendations on how to best complete the Rapid Transit Loop and operate it. They were:
1. Merge all street railway and bus systems. The subway was to be operated under this new consolidated agency.
2. Extend existing subway from its current terminus under Central Parkway south under Walnut St. 6 blocks to a large station under Fountain Square. The Fountain Square station was to be the terminus of the line, as the original eastern alignment of the loop and the 3rd St. elevated plans were abandoned. The Fountain Square station was estimated to be the arrival and departure point for 47% of all trips on the line.
3. Complete line from Forest Ave. to Madison Rd. in Oakley
4. Construct new street car line from Madisonville and Mariemont to new Madison Rd. Station in Oakley
5. Abandon Ludlow Ave. station, and build new station on north end of the Ludlow Viaduct, at Knowlton's Corner in Northside. This required re-routing of the existing line with 2 new bridges over the Mill Creek and a short el in Northside, at a cost of $700,000.
6. Operate the following stations in the line: Fountain Square (new), Race St., Brighton's Corner, Knowlton's Corner (new), Vine St. (St. Bernard), Paddock Rd. (an overpass had already been constructed, but with no intention of a station in this location), Montgomery Rd., Forest Ave., and Madison Rd. Abandon these stations: Liberty St., Linn St. (Mohawk's Corner), Marshall Ave., Ludlow Ave., and Clifton Ave.
7. Eliminate paper transfers
8. Adhere to service recommended in this report
9. Sign College Hill Interurban as tenant on Rapid Transit Line. College Hill trains to enter north of new Knowlton's Corner station, and run express from this station to Fountain Square Station, where they would have dedicated tracks and platforms separate from Rapid Transit Loop trains. The Fountain Square Station was to have had a mezzanine and underground connections to nearby buildings, including Dixie Terminal at 4th & Walnut.
10. Changes in street cars, bus schedules, and running time in general in order to give patrons the advantage of full distribution facilities to and from the Rapid Transit Line and secure for the system a minimum of fare.
This diagram appeared in the Beeler Report, detailing possible substitution of either the CL&N or Deer Creek Tunnels for the originally
planned eastern half of the Rapid Transit Loop.
The Beeler Report also investigated completion of the eastern section of the originally planned Rapid Transit Loop. Before WWI a subway was planned under Walnut St. from the canal south to 3rd St., and then an el east above 3rd St. to the present day location of Columbia Parkway (essentially the route of the present-day U.S. 50 3rd St. Viaduct). This was deemed too expensive due to the low revenue expected from the city's sparse eastern population, and instead a shorter route was studied through Walnut Hills, then the city's most populous suburb. A subway under or el above Gilbert Ave. and Montgomery Rd. was prohibitively expensive, therefore the purchase of an existing railroad was sought. The acquisition of the nearby CL&N RR, which ran a busy mix of freight, passenger, and commuter trains, was not possible, nor was building an el over it. Additionally, the short single track Oak St. Tunnel along this line would have created a bottleneck in the system, which was unacceptable. Purchase of the nearby 9,000ft. Deer Creek Tunnel, which had stood incomplete and unused since 1855 was also impractical because its 200ft. depth promised extremely expensive station construction costs. Neither the CL&N line or Deer Creek RR Tunnel came close enough to the most densely populated areas, and would offer no more than 5-10 minutes saved over street cars for most riders. It is also unclear as to how the "loop" would have operated in either of these scenarios, as it would not have formed a true loop. Two "spurs" would have existed, the first being the Walnut St. Tunnel and Fountain Square station, and the other the section between the Madison Rd. terminus and wherever the substituted eastern leg would have tied in.
In response to the Beeler Report and the $10,000,000 estimate for completion, city council stalled and no new bonds were issued. The Depression hit in 1929, and no new work was undertaken.
As the city and state started to fund major road improvements
(paving, widening, viaducts, etc.) most of the interurban lines were driven
out of business by the automobile. Since the subway and Rapid Transit
Loop was to primarily serve suburban commuters, its usefulness in the coming
automobile age was in question.
The Trolley Subway Proposal
The subway had been built for standard high platform subway cars and interurbans, meaning the city's existing street cars could not serve stations without lowering the platforms, which would have been a considerable expense. But during the Depression in 1936 another major study and effort was made towards making use of what had been constructed of the Rapid Transit Loop, with the additional goal of removing all trolley tracks and traffic from downtown. This was to have been accomplished via an elaborate downtown subway loop surrounding an 18-block area resembling Scheme II of the 1914 plan. The loop would have run under 5th St. between Race & Main, Race and Main between Central Parkway and 5th, and Central Parkway between Race & Main. Loop stations were to have been located at Fountain Square, 7th & Race, 7th & Main, Court & Race (replacing the existing Race & Central Parkway Station), and Court & Main. Approach tunnels for the individual street car lines were to have been built, some with underground stations just for that line, located at 8th & Elm, 12th & Vine, and Reading & Pendleton. Street cars were to have entered the loop via flying crossovers and would have descended or ascended to the pair of main loop tracks on ramps. Cars on specific routes would use either the outer or inner loop main and would never use the opposite. Carried over from the Beeler Report recommendations, the College Hill interurban would have utilized the canal subway and downtown street car loop. Needless to say, side-by-side operations by 3-rail interurbans and a half-dozen trolley lines would have been extremely complex.
Although huge transit construction projects were undertaken during the Depression years including the privately built Union Terminal (which at $41,000,000 cost 4X what was needed to complete the Rapid Transit Loop), the Western Hills Viaduct (built by the Union Terminal Company), the 5th St. Viaduct (public funding) and Columbia Parkway (public funding), no money was secured for the downtown trolley loop or completion of the Rapid Transit Loop and no further construction was undertaken. The 2 mile Central Parkway subway tunnel and many of the suburban underpasses and overpasses were maintained, but the grading itself in many places became overgrown by the 1950's. The above-ground stations were not maintained, and the Ludlow Ave. station deteriorated so severely that it collapsed. Today the only stretch of grading that can still be seen is a trench behind Showcase Cinemas in Norwood.
In the 1980's the subway was studied for transit use. Under the proposed scheme the abandoned West Side C&O branch was to feed commuter trains into the subway just north of the Western Hills Viaduct. This plan would have required a new viaduct for the line across the Mill Creek Valley, and stations along the line probably located at Quebec, Boudenoit, and Bridgetown Rd. At that time refurbishment of the 2 mile Central Parkway subway tunnel was estimated at $20 million. An extension down Walnut St., with stations at 8th St., Fountain Square, and Riverfront Stadium was estimated at $70 million. Considering how few neighborhoods could have been served by this scheme, and the demographics, it is unlikely that the line could have attracted more than 20,000 riders per day. The decision against construction of this line proved wise, as the West Side's population has remained steady for the past twenty years, and it is unlikely that the line alone would have encouraged any significant commercial or residential development.
Brighton Station Photos
Linn St. Station Photos
Liberty St. Station Photos
Race St. Station Photos
Hopple St. Tunnel
1950's Photo Tour
Early Subway Plans and Diagrams
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