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.


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 to help
                          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
                          Issue 7.

                          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 in
                          improvements and expansions to the present bus system.

                          Area transportation planners hoped that, if built, the Hamilton County system
                          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 line
                          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 to
                          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 traffic
                          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 any
                          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

The following article appeared in the November 30, 2001 edition of the Cincinnati Business Courier prior to the changes in the plan that have occurred in summer 2002.  When light rail planning began around 1998, the focus was entirely on the single I-71 corridor line, with subsequent lines to be built with future bond issues or some other funding source.

                          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 Henry Hunt
                              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 Ohio,
                              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 awards funding.
                              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 have tentatively
                              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 for wheelchair
                              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

Section 1  Planning and construction
Section 2  Completion attempts
Section 3  The subway today
Section 4  Various proposals
Section 5  What might have been
Section 6  Future use

Construction Photos
Portal Photos
Brighton Station Photos
Linn St. Station Photos
Liberty St. Station Photos
Race St. Station Photos
Hopple St. Tunnel
Norwood Tunnels
1950's Photo Tour
Early Subway Plans and Diagrams
Subway Maps

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