Wasson Way Project Awarded Federal Grant

The bridge spanning I-71 is now complete, the barriers poised to be removed. The completion symbolizes a literal reknitting of neighborhoods long separated by interstate construction. The Wasson Way bridge, which extends the trail across a railroad bridge over I-71, allows Evanston – and with it, Xavier University – direct access to the Rookwood complex and beyond.

And with Phase 2 of the Wasson Way Trail finished, funding has now been secured for more than three additional miles of trail, further connecting neighborhoods.

The Wasson Way Project was recently awarded $6 million in federal Surface Transportation Block Grants (STBG) from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) along with an almost $2 million local match.

According to Sean McGrory, board chair of the non-profit Wasson Way Project, the grant funds will be used to extend the current trail to the west from Montgomery Road by Dana Avenue to Blair Avenue in Avondale. Also, to the east, from Madison Road near Rookwood to the northeast corner of Ault Park where it will connect to the Red Bank Trail.

The eventual western spur to Avondale brings the trail ever closer to the planned multi-modal transit center designated for the University of Cincinnati’s Uptown. There, planners envision multi modes of transportation including Metro buses, bike sharing systems such as Red Bike, and ride sharing options and shuttles to Uptown’s educational and medical institutions, essentially connecting UC to Xavier.

And with it, connecting people to opportunities. The Wasson Way Trail goes beyond simple recreation, it is an economic engine, a catalyst for growth along the line, organizers say. Unlike a recreational bike trail, Wasson Way is recognized as a transportation mitigator. Beyond simply riding bikes, organizers note Wasson Way can ultimately improve congestion and even air quality by getting more cars off the road.

Given the federal funding cycle, the federal monies will not be available until the summer of 2022. In the meantime, Wasson Way, City of Cincinnati and OKI officials are exploring ways to possibly accelerate some of the funding, McGrory said.

A fundraising group has been formed and is currently developing a robust strategy to raise the needed matching funds, incorporating fundraising for other trail projects. “We are considering an approach that will likely include other key segments of the CROWN network, such as the Oasis/ Ohio River Trail, and the anticipated matches required for those segments as well,” McGrory said.

While there is a great public desire to connect to the Little Miami Scenic Trail as soon as possible, connecting Wasson Way to the that trail system on the eastern end is challenging because of expensive right-of-way costs and the need for bridge construction.

“Federal funds such as STBG can only be awarded to projects where the applicant owns or controls the right-of-way,” McGrory noted. “In this case the city and/or SORTA owns the right-of-way westbound to Blair Avenue and the city owns it eastbound through Ault Park. Connecting to the Little Miami Trial will require the coordinated effort of other municipalities, townships, and public and/or private property owners. Tri-State Trails has been actively engaging with these property owners to achieve this.”

In all, the $31 million in federal grants awarded by OKI will assist 13 Ohio projects and five Kentucky projects, many designed to ease traffic congestion, improve air quality and enhance safety at various areas and cities throughout the region, including the Wasson Way Trail project. “OKI supports a transportation network that integrates diverse modes, and these projects advance this mission,” OKI’s CEO Mark Policinski said in a statement. “For the communities we serve, these projects mean safer walks to school, less congested trips to work and increased connection to one another. For the region we represent, these projects signify a more vibrant economy that retains talent while attracting residents and visitors alike.”

As an advocate for Cincinnati’s trail system and avid cyclist, I am passionate about living near the trails we use. If you’re looking to purchase a home along the Wasson Way trail or near any other local trail, call me at 513.702.3419 or email [email protected]

Photo credit: Wasson Way Project Facebook Page