City of Dayton seeks funding for rails-to-trails project

The city of Dayton is seeking public funding to help transform an abandoned rail line into an elevated trail.

The proposed new trail, dubbed the “flight line,” would be along six miles of what’s now rail line and would create an urban recreation trail connecting into Miami Valley’s more than 300 miles of existing regional trails.

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The project, however, is in its early stages and would cost an estimated $5 million.

The city is requesting the Dayton Development Coalition advocate on its behalf for $2 million in public funding in the next year.

The request is among dozens of proposals that the coalition’s Priority Development and Advocacy Committee will sort through to make a prioritized list of what to lobby for at the federal and state level.

“One of the reasons we wanted to get on the list is because we think this is a project that has a lot of regional implications. This is a project that can connect downtown into the regional trail system,” said Jon White, a Dayton city planner who is spearheading the project.

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The trail would have an elevated section in downtown Dayton, run through East Dayton and connect Dayton to Kettering.

Part of the proposal for the trail includes an elevated park, as well as linear pocket parks and greenways along the trail.

The 6.5-mile track starts just east of the former site of Garden Station, near the Oregon Historic District. It’s elevated until a little beyond Keowee Street.

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The application states it would improve quality of life, remove a blighted and abandoned rail corridor, incorporate neighborhood history and art, and inspire hope and investment into the corridor.

Some of the goals of the project would be to improve property values, promote health and wellness and create another alternative option for transportation besides motorized options like cars and buses.

White said the project could take years to come to fruition and to be fully funded.

He said the city is looking at a number of different funding options, like the State of Ohio Clean Ohio Trails Fund and different federal programs like the Congestion Mitigation/ Air Quality Program and Transportation Alternatives.

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The city has formally begun the process to negotiate with Norfolk Southern to try to acquire or lease the rail line.

A previous appraisal of the track by the city estimated it was worth about $730,000.

Rebecca Benná, executive director of Five Rivers Metroparks, said in a letter of support for the flight line’s funding request that the trail would “create a true urban multipurpose recreation trail connecting Downtown Dayton with the rest of the regional trail system.”

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