CINCINNATI — Hope for connecting Hamilton and Clermont counties via the Ohio River Trail glimmered Tuesday when the city’s transportation committee weighed committing roughly $250,000 to the project.
Transportation director Michael Moore explained why his department could have to turn down more than $3 million in federal grant money because there was not enough money available locally to provide the roughly $923,000 required match.
“The department has about $170,000 to contribute to the match, but we knew that just wouldn’t be enough, so we’d have to return the grant,” Moore said.
He explained that as community awareness of the importance of bike infrastructure grew, so did the awareness of other potential trail sites and bike infrastructure.
“We can’t do everything,” Moore said. “We have a lot of needs and not many resources.”
When the news broke that the trail connection would likely go unbuilt, other bodies stepped up and pledged some help.
The connection would run alongside Kellogg Avenue between Salem Road and Sutton Avenue, which sits near the border of Anderson Township.
That prompted Anderson Township leaders to propose offering up to $100,000 toward the project. The Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District also pledged $300,000. Finally, the project has the approval of a $100,000 grant from Interact for Health, the regional non-profit dedicated to health improvement projects.
That still leaves the local funding match about $250,000 short.
“We are very committed to this project,” Anderson Township’s assistant city administrator of operations, Steve Sievers, told the committee. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”
The Anderson Township Board of Trustees still has to officially approve the allocation of funds, but committee chair Amy Murray said she spoke with members of the board and felt confident in their commitment.
For Tom Caruso, the planner designing the stretch of trail, the project is all about making the Tri-State’s counties more connected.
“When we’re talking about regionalism, this is what we’re talking about,” he said Tuesday.
Frank Henson, president of Tri-State Trails — a non-profit devoted to promoting mixed-use trails throughout the region — echoed Caruso, calling the connector trail “critical” to connecting Hamilton and Clermont counties via an alternative mode of transportation.
For outgoing council member Yvette Simpson, the time to strike is now.
“This would allow us to get one project done,” she said. “We’re so close.”
Committee member Kevin Flynn suggested making the city’s commitment of an additional $250,000 to fill the financing gap contingent on the other organizations locking in their contributions.
Murray asked Moore to prepare information on where the city could find the extra money and present at the next transportation committee meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 19.