MTM Cincinnati: The Subway That Never Was

When you think of subways, you think of large cities like New York, Boston, Washington, Chicago and San Francisco.  Smaller cities like Cleveland have rail service as well.

One that almost had it was Cincinnati.  Trolley service existed up to the end of World War II, but city leaders attempted to go a step further.

In 1916, the city passed a bond issue to build and operate a subway system on a route used by the defunct Erie-Miami Canal.  Construction began on a combination rail tunnel and parkway now known as Central Parkway.

The tunnels were completed.  Three stations were built, and cars began using Central Parkway midway through the Prohibition Era.

Then the money ran out.

The city attempted to get federal funding during the Great Depression, but the Roosevelt Administration favored building up the nation’s power grid and flood control projects instead.  World War II precluded any mass transit money to cities.  By the time the dust settled from the war, the nation was already building the Interstate Highway System.

The tunnels still exist and are maintained.  Several attempts to utilize the tunnels have never succeeded.  So three stations and an empty tunnel remain.

Photos from after the jump.

[More My Town Mondays posts with Travis.]subway-h2

Abandoned tunnel near Hopple St. and Cincinnati State College.


Underneath this terrace is the subway line.  Above is Central Parkway.


The tubes coming into Race Street Station.


Platforms at Race Street Station.  No track was ever laid here, no ticket booths ever installed.

Sometimes, one wonders what might have been had it been completed.  However, I-75 is about to get a massive overhaul from Dayton through Cincinnati to the split with I-71 in Walton, Kentucky, a project that will rival Boston’s Big Dig in price and scope (though not nearly as spectacular or leaky.)  One of the recommendations is to add light rail between Cincinnati and the Dayton to relieve congestion from the northern suburbs.  The subway may open for business yet.


5 thoughts on “MTM Cincinnati: The Subway That Never Was

  1. Patti – I was thinking the same thing.

    Debra – As far as I know, there is if you arrange for it. Obviously, they don’t want people wandering around down there and disappearing. I know the southbound tunnel now houses a water main, so if they ever build a rapid line here, that’s going to have to be moved, which will not be pretty.

    Travis – Not a whole helluva lot beyond grafitti.

    Barbara – I agree. Ironically, the town where I lived nixed a light rail plan because the track to be used, now mainly for small freight runs of a few cars, would have been dangerous to kids. Now that I live in Deer Park, I see the problem. That stretch should be dug into a trench with pedestrian and traffic bridges to take the trains out of the equation.

    Or they could just build the station a mile west in Reading and use the old subway tunnels.

    But Cincinnati, for some reason, fears public transportation. It might drag them kicking and screaming into the last century, which would be frighteningly too close to this century. (Yes, I get a little aggravated with the place sometimes.)

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