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Wasson Way in line for $1.1M in state funding

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Posted at 3:15 PM, Feb 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-25 17:28:39-05

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati is in line to get more than $1 million in state funding for construction on a second phase of the Wasson Way bike trail, even as questions remain on how, exactly, the city will pay to buy an old rail corridor for the project.

If lawmakers in Columbus approve the $1.1 million in state capital funding, it 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.

The $1.1 million is roughly a quarter of the $4.5 million the city wanted from the state.

Wasson Way already won a $500,000 Clean Ohio Trails grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. That funding will pay for a large part of construction along the trail's first section, a 3,200-foot stretch from Tamarack Avenue to Madison Road. The city estimates that first phase will cost between $980,000 and $1,855,000 to construct.

Design work on the first and second phases is expected to start in a few months, with construction getting underway by summer 2017.

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.

MAP: Wasson Way would connect the dots

The nonprofit backing the Wasson Way project has said the trail would spark countless development opportunities, boost spending locally by up to $9 million and increase the values of homes near the trail by up to $9,000 each.

The Wasson trail, under the proposed Cincinnati Connects Plan, is also slated to be one of four major trail plans that ultimately would connect to form a 42-mile network of trails running throughout the city

But railroad company Norfolk Southern still owns 4.1 miles of the trail's right of way, and acquisition talks under way between Norfolk and rail company Canadian Pacific have some city leaders concerned about the time crunch to purchase the needed land.

Cincinnati City Council approved terms of a deal last summer to purchase the corridor from Norfolk Southern for $11.57 million. That agreement is set to expire in July, but the city could opt to pay a nearly $590,000 fee to extend the closing to July 2017.

Late last month, eight council members signed a motion asking the city administration to continue to offer recommendations on possible sources of funding for the purchase. They should be getting a report in the coming weeks.

Aside from the acquisition costs, the project carries an estimated $19- to $23-million construction price tag.

One of the rail bridges the city will acquire as part of Wasson Way. Photo courtesy City of Cincinnati.

One of the biggest expenses, according to Department of Transportation and Engineering Director Michael Moore, will be bringing seven old rail bridges up to good condition. The cost for painting, repairs and safety on the bridges is roughly $6 million to $7 million.

Boosters suffered two major setbacks late last year: In October, the city learned that it was denied a $20 million federal TIGER grant for Wasson Way; and the next month, Cincinnati voters rejected a property tax increase that, among other parks and recreational projects, would have paid for the bike trail.

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WCPO.com's Pat LaFleur and Lisa Bernard-Kuhn contributed to this report.