Dayton ‘Flight Line’ trail project could boost East Dayton neighborhoods

Turner says unused railroad track will turn from blight to bright; Mims says city may imitate Chicago, New York rail trails

East Dayton neighborhoods are going to benefit greatly from a project that will convert a vacated 6.5-mile railroad track into a multi-use recreational trail, said U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, during a media event on Thursday.

“This is going to be an important needed investment in this neighborhood, just off of the Huffman Historic District,” Turner said. “My kids grew up in this neighborhood.”

Turner helped secure a $1.5 million federal earmark for the “Flight Line” rails to trails project, which is a highly anticipated undertaking that has been talked about for years.

Rep. Turner said the Flight Line project will connect East Dayton neighborhoods to the regional bike network. The rail line runs through about nine Dayton neighborhoods.

“By connecting this, we are going to transform an area that is abandoned and that is a blighting influence to the community into an area that attracts activity and energy and excitement,” Turner said. “This project is called the Flight Line, and we’re looking forward to it taking flight.”

The federal funding will help the city acquire the abandoned rail line from Norfolk Southern. The parties have been in purchase talks for years but haven’t yet been able to reach a deal.

The funding comes from the $1.7 trillion spending bill that President Joe Biden signed last year after it passed both chambers of Congress.

Turner requested the $1.5 million in funding for the Flight Line project, but he was not one of the nine Republican members of the House of Representatives who voted in favor of the omnibus appropriations bill.

The city wants to transform the rail line into a recreational trail with park-type amenities, similar to rails-to-trails developments in other cities, like the 606 elevated park and trail in Chicago and the High Line public park and trail in New York City.

Dayton Mayor Jeff Mims Jr. said the Flight Line is another example of how Dayton tries to replicate innovative and successful projects in other communities.

“We’re just trying to take all the good ideas we see in other cities and bring them back to Dayton,” Mims said with a laugh. “We try not to reinvent the wheel.”

Mims said about 25,000 residents live within a 10-minute walk of the new proposed recreational trail.

The Flight Line would connect to the regional trail network, which already consists of more than 300 miles of pathways.

Turner’s office says there will be two sections of the new recreational trail: A northern elevated trail and parkway that will connect to the Creekside Trail and a southern trail that will connect to the Iron Horse Trail.

The western part of the abandoned rail line that begins near the Oregon District is elevated and would provide visitors with views of downtown and nearby neighborhoods.

Susan Vincent, a city of Dayton planner, said it could cost about $6 million to turn the rail line into a new trail.

The city probably will go after a variety of funding sources for the project, she said.

“I think the construction estimates we’ve put out so far are really for the trail construction, and we know that there will be a need to do some additional fundraising and planning to create the full vision for the parkways,” Vincent said.

Vincent said it’s unclear what the timeline could be for this project, but it’s possible the city could close on the property in 2024.

The city says the new recreational trail will be constructed in phases that possibly could take five to 10 years to complete, depending on phasing and funding.



The Dayton region is home to the largest paved bike trail network in the nation.

Supporters say the Flight Line will be a community asset that will provide a new alternative transit route for thousands of local workers and better connect business and employment centers.

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