For several years there were no updates to this "Future Use" section of the website. But in summer 2002 a dramatic shift in regional light rail planning took place in preparation for the November elections. Sensing little county-wide support for the long-planned single northeast corridor line, an extensive multi-line plan was instead placed on the ballot. One of these lines was to have used the two mile Central Parkway subway, and put into use at least two of the existing stations. This marked the best hope in nearly 80 years for activation of the old tunnel.
A graphic published by the Cincinnati Enquirer in August 2002
Issue 7 advocates raised $600,000 from several prominent private and public sources and it was endorsed by most local newspapers and many organizations. A week prior to the election a poll conducted by WCPO Channel 9 found 48% pro and 52% against, making victory on November 5th seem possible. This poll was either flawed or its results were incorrectly reported, as Issue 7 suffered a terrible defeat that will put mass transit planning on ice for several years.
Missed is an opportunity to begin construction of what
would be among the largest rail transit systems of similarly sized American
cities. 21 American cities have some form of rail transit,
and over 150 cities around the world have subway systems. Instead
Cincinnati will remain, for a few more years, one of the largest cities
in the world without a single mile of any form of rail transit.
METRO PLAN HITS WALL OF RESISTANCE
Wednesday, November 6, 2002
Issue 7: Light rail
By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Hamilton County voters Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a proposed sales-tax
increase, ending a decade-long effort to bring light rail and improved mass transit
to the area.
Issue 7, which would have raised the county sales-tax rate by a half-cent
pay for a $2.7 billion transportation plan put forth by the Southwest Ohio
Regional Transit Authority, lost by a ratio of more than 2-to-1.
The centerpiece of that MetroMoves plan,
and the cause of most of the controversy,
was a 60-mile, $2.6 billion light-rail system
that would have included five lines
through the county.
"What is clear in this is that the supporters
of Issue 7 seriously underestimated the
ability of Hamilton County voters to assess
just how risky this plan was," said Stephan
Louis, a Pleasant Ridge medical-supplies
salesman who led the campaign against
With 100 percent of precincts reporting,
161,166 votes, or 68.4 percent, were
against the tax and 96,469 voters, or 31.6
percent, said yes - a difference of 64,697
But despite the landslide rejection, officials
of Metro - which runs the county's bus
system - said they were committed to the
plan and to the concept of light rail,
although they said no decisions had been
made about what would happen next.
"If you look back 3-4 years ago, the issue
of expanded transportation or the new
technology of light rail was not in
anybody's thoughts," said Metro general
manager and chief executive officer Paul
"At some point in the future, the plan will become reality, and it's just
a matter of
when. The time is obviously not today, though."
Before the election, transit officials said they expected the sales-tax
hike to raise
about $60 million and pay for about 25 percent of the plan. The plan then called
for the federal government to cover half the cost and the state to cover 25
The proposal includes both the light-rail system, and more than $100 million
improvements and expansions to the present bus system.
Area transportation planners hoped that, if built, the Hamilton County
would have been the backbone of a regional rail plan that could extend into
Warren, Butler and Clermont counties and into Northern Kentucky's three
counties - Campbell, Kenton and Boone.
During a contentious campaign that saw pro-transit advocates far outspent
anti-transit forces, which included many conservative elected officials, local transit
officials said the only thing keeping light rail from coming to the area was the lack
of a local funding source.
They pointed to their last proposal to the federal government for a light-rail
along Interstate 71, which received a passing grade on all aspects of the plan
except local funding from the Federal Transit Administration.
That forced the agency to give a "not recommended" rating overall.
A project must be recommended by the federal agency before it is taken
Congress for funding.
Local transit officials have said that since Congress is renewing a five-year
transportation authorization bill next year, this is the time to secure that local
funding to show the area is serious about improving mass transit, lowering
congestion and improving air quality.
Advocates have spent more than $500,000 on their campaign, saying the plan
would also boost area development as well as provide for better transportation for
the physically and financially challenged.
Yet there was a very vocal campaign against the issue. Several area elected
officials, including U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, lined up against Issue 7.
These opponents argue that light rail would not be effective in reducing
and air pollution, and that the costs of such a system would quickly exceed the
$2.6 billion figure. Both sides had appeared at numerous public debates in the
weeks leading up to Election Day, accusing each other of distorting the same set
of facts to their own advantage and repeatedly making the same arguments.
Transit authority chairman Peter D. Gomsak Jr. said the board had not made
decision about the next step for the MetroMoves plan beyond Tuesday's vote,
but said that "we all remain very committed to the plan and its value to the
Subway tunnels might see light
Old tubes could provide a new transit solution
Dan Monk Courier Senior Staff Reporter
An abandoned, 80-year-old subway tunnel beneath Central
Parkway could be reborn as part
of a Cincinnati-to-Hamilton light rail line.
Transportation planners are looking closely at the two-mile tunnel as part
of a larger study of
transportation needs in the Interstate 75 corridor between Cincinnati and Dayton. According
to their preliminary review, the tunnel is not only adaptable to light rail, but it could be used as
a local match to draw down as much as $500 million in federal light rail funding.
The old tunnel dates back to Cincinnati's Boss Cox era, when reform Mayor
touted mass transit as a way to help poor people get out of the crowded Mill Creek basin and
into new suburbs like Oakley, Pleasant Ridge and Norwood. But cost overruns turned public
sentiment against the tunnel. After spending $25 million, the city gave up on the project in the
1920s. It took until 1966 to pay off the bonds.
"The city did a great job of sealing it up and safeguarding it against
vandalism. It's amazingly
intact," said Judi Craig, corridor studies manager for the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional
Council of Governments, which is conducting the I-75 study.
"There is potential here," said Jim Czarnecky, planner with Parsons Brinckerhoff
consultant for the I-75 study.
The tunnel's reuse is one of several ideas circulating among light rail
backers, who are
searching for a rail proposal that could generate public support. Last year, rail backers
scuttled plans for a sales-tax initiative to fund an 18-mile line from downtown to Blue Ash
that would have cost more than $700 million. OKI is still refining the I-71 plan. New cost
estimates for that system should be available early next year.
Fairfield City Councilman Sterling Mueller said the subway tunnel is a
long shot but those
odds improve dramatically if the tunnel can be used to draw federal funding.
That's possible because of how the U.S. Federal Transit Administration
Once a project is approved, the FTA awards $2 for every $1 of local funds. Previously, rail
planners assumed a sales-tax initiative would be needed to provide that local match. But
equity in existing infrastructure can also be used. St. Louis, for example, donated a bridge and
several underground tunnels to its rail project, Craig said.
No one is sure what Cincinnati's tunnel is worth, but Craig said engineers
pegged the value at $250 million.
"That makes it extremely attractive," said Mueller. "It has a certain voter
appeal. If you can
say we're saving $100 million or what-ever it is, to the extent they feel like they're getting a
bargain, they're more likely to accept whatever the sales tax might be."
Mueller said voters might also be inspired by the revival of a historical
artifact. After all,
voters passed a tax levy to fund renovation of Union Terminal into a museum complex.
Czarnecky said the tunnel would offer faster service in the downtown area,
allowing trains to
travel from the Western Hills viaduct to the Hamilton County Courthouse without interacting
with traffic. A Central Parkway station between Main and Walnut streets could link an I-75
rail line to an I-71 line, which planners hope will someday run from Kings Island to the
airport. The Central Parkway tunnel line could ultimately extend down Eggleston Avenue,
connecting the I-75 line to rail lines.
But the tunnels might also pose problems.
They're small. In their tightest spots, the twin shafts are 13 feet wide
and 16 feet tall. That's
slightly smaller than a Mount Auburn tunnel that light rail planners have proposed for the
I-71 line. And it would limit the types of trains that could be used.
Another problem: The three stations built into the tunnel do not meet standards
accessibility. And a water line in one tunnel shaft would have to be relocated. But Cindy
Minter, a Parsons project manager who recently inspected the tunnels, was surprised by how
well they've held up.
"They're pretty clean," Minter said. "The stations would have to be reworked,
but the shafts
themselves are in very good shape."
Mueller sees an even bigger problem: The Central Parkway shaft might be
one tunnel too
many. Mueller said many on the I-75 corridor committee prefer a route that would merge with
the I-71 line in Norwood. Such a route would maximize the use of a $100 million tunnel
that's part of the I-71 project.
Planners say the tunnel would provide a crucial link between downtown and
the University of
Cincinnati. But the cost of the Mount Auburn tunnel is easier to justify if it's used by multiple
rail lines. The I-75 line, for example, could merge with the I-71 line near Xavier University,
then extend southward to UC and downtown. An East Side rail line could run from Clermont
County through Fairfax, then south to UC and downtown.
"If you use the Central Avenue corridor, it doesn't touch the neighborhoods
that need service
as well as the Mount Auburn corridor does," Mueller said.
One advantage of merging routes is that Metro, the city's transit system,
owns -- or has a first
right of refusal to buy -- much of the rail right of way that would be needed for the
three-pronged system. For that reason, Metro General Manager Paul Jablonski predicted the
tunnels might later become part of a light rail line serving the West Side.
It's not whether the old subway tunnels could work, said Jablonski, but,
"are they in the right
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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