$1M recommended for 'milestone' bike bridge

$1M recommended for 'milestone' bike bridge
Posted at 4:10 PM, Mar 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-10 16:36:55-05

CINCINNATI -- A small but important bridge over the Little Miami River is poised to get a big infusion of cash from the state of Ohio, if lawmakers go along with recommendations from some of the region's power players.

Once built, the roughly $6.6 million bridge would cross the river near Lunken Airport, giving bicyclists a dedicated path from Downtown Cincinnati to the nearly 80-mile Little Miami Scenic Trail.

Great Parks of Hamilton County recently learned it was recommended to receive another $1 million from Ohio's capital budget for the project; that recommendation came from the Capital Budget Prioritization Task Force, an ad hoc group of business, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders organized by the influential Cincinnati Business Committee at the state's request. The idea is help assure lawmakers in Columbus that there's regional consensus around projects that get state funding.

Hamilton County's parks district estimates some 300,000 people live within 5 miles of the Little Miami trail, but it doesn't yet take riders into the city.

"This bridge is a vital part in connecting the Little Miami Scenic Trail to the city of Cincinnati," Great Parks spokeswoman Kimberly Whitton said. "It's a huge milestone making that connection."

Back in 2014, Great Parks received a $1 million grant from the state for design and engineering work. With much of that work done, the district is turning its attention to the estimated $5.6 million needed for construction.

In two months, a 3-mile extension of the Little Miami trail through Anderson Township officially opens; already paved and about 90 percent complete, the segment starts at the Little Miami Golf Center in Newtown and ends at Beechmont Avenue, where it meets State Route 32.

Map courtesy Great Parks of Hamilton County

Just across the Little Miami River from there is Otto Armleder Park and Lunken Airport, with their paved trail network. And from Lunken, a series of trail segments and on-street bike lanes lead to Downtown Cincinnati.

"Now it's a matter of lining up the rest of the funding" for the bridge, Whitton said. Until that money is secured, there's no project timetable, though Great Parks hopes it's "sooner rather than later."

As for the $1 million Great Parks might receive from the upcoming capital budget, the next step in the process is for all projects to be reviewed by the Ohio General Assembly and the governor’s office.

There's a ribbon-cutting scheduled for the 3-mile Anderson Township trail extension at 10 a.m. May 21. Whitton said the public is invited to come and take the first "official" ride on the trail.

The city of Cincinnati also hopes state lawmakers approve $1.1 million in capital funding for a stretch of its Wasson Way trail on the east side of town. The money would go toward a stretch of trail between Montgomery Road and Tamarack Avenue, near Interstate 71 in the Evanston neighborhood. Total construction for that portion is estimated at between $1,260,000 and $2,135,000.

As envisioned, Wasson Way would stretch 7.6 miles, linking the region's second-largest jobs center, in Uptown, with Fairfax, a suburban village in eastern Hamilton County.