Rebuilding the Abandoned Cincinnati Subway and Bringing It To Life

It would certainly be a dream come true for the Cincinnati subway to come back to life to have a subway system. They tried to build one in the 1920’s, but it was never finished. You can see the remnants of the subway tunnels off Interstate 75 between Exit 3 (Hopple St) and exit 2 (Western Hills Viaduct). So what happened to the original system, and how can we bring it back to life?

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What happened was, they started building the tunnels and construction stopped because of the Great Depression, combined with running out of money. When the Great Depression was over, costs had gone up significantly and was never restarted. To this day, the 2.5 mile subway tunnel underneath Central Parkway going from downtown Cincinnati to the Westetn Hills Viaduct is the longest abandoned subway tunnel in the United States.

Under my plan to build (or should I say rebuild) the Cincinnati subway would revive the use of the tunnels. However due to their limited size it could only run smaller and more local trains. It could be reconstructed to fit bigger trains, but that only remains a possibility under my plan. What would be built is a new network of tunnels stretching far beyond where the original subway was intended to go.

Part of my plan also includes reviving the (almost) Riverfront Transit Center currently sitting under Second street downtown. That structure has the space available to become the primary hub getting around Cincinnati. This will be the station that once you’ve arrived at, you can get anywhere in the metropolitan area.

So let’s talk about express routes, starting with the northern suburbs. There would definitely be a route from West Chester to downtown starting at Union Center boulevard. The route would extend to Liberty Center as well. Future extensions would bring it up to Monroe Premium Outlets and State Route 132 in Middletown.

Moving east to the I-71 corridor, Mason would the next express route to downtown, starting at Mason Montgomery Road at Fields Ertel. From there the line would continue north to Kings Island. Future expansion would include a stop between Lebanon and South Lebanon.

Moving south along 275 would be an express route from the Milford area to downtown. Locally this route would also cover Terrace Park and Mariemont on it’s way downtown. Future expansion would likely take it northward up to Wards Corner Road and 275.

Continuing the journey south along the 275 corridor would be an Eastside express route to downtown starting at Eastgate Mall. From there the route would go straight into Anderson Township and Mt. Washington following Beechmont Avenue. Future expansion would take the route into Batavia and possibly Amelia.

The last express route originating in Ohio on the east side would come from southern Anderson Township. The original tunnel would come from Eastgate Mall and connect there. It would make a stop at Belterra/Riverbend/Coney Island before going into northern Kentucky. It would follow south Fort Thomas Avenue through North Fort Thomas Avenue until bending at Memorial Parkway and into downtown Cincinnati.

Moving west, the next line would be a north/south line, starting in Cold Spring, Kentucky. It would make its way into Highland Heights, Southgate, Newport, and finally into downtown Cincinnati along the US 27/Alexandria Pike corridor. Future expansion of the line would make its way into Alexandria.

Continuing west, the next line would be from Independence to downtown. The line would start right around where Madison Pike and Harris Pike meet. From there it would go north following Route 17, making a turn towards Taylor Mill, following into Latonia, then Covington before making a turn into downtown Cincinnati.

The march continues west with another subway line starting just north of Richwood going straight north into Florence. From there the route would parallel US 25 through Erlanger, Crestview Heights, Lakeside Park, Fort Mitchell, Fort Wright, Park Hills, Mainstrasse Covington, and into downtown Cincinnati. I am projecting this to be the busiest subway line going through Northern Kentucky. Future expansion will go down to Walton.

The final express route north/south in Northern Kentucky will be an express route from downtown Cincinnati to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG). The subway tunnel will be built along the Ohio River and go through West Covington, Ludlow, Bromley, Villa Hills, the hotels by Mineola Pike and 275, then finally into the CVG departure/arrival terminal. Future expansion of the route includes Hebron, near Amazon/DHL, and into Francisville (or north Hebron).

Moving back into Ohio, there were will be few westside routes south of I-74. The first one will be short. It will go from the downtown Cincinnati subway station into the Incline District, make a slight turn south into Delhi, and terminate at Mt. St. Joseph University. Future expansion would follow the Ohio River to Cleves.

The next west route would also go into Price Hill, but would make make stops going northwest, including Western Hills, Bridgetown North, Cheviot, and Dent. This would probably be the busiest line on the west side of Cincinnati. Future expansion of this line would stop at Miami Whitewater Forest and Harrison.

Now we’re back to the North/South lines. The Cincinnati subway will have an express line going from Northgate to downtown Cincinnati. The line will also stop at Union Terminal, Camp Washington, Northside, Mr. Airy Forest, and White Oak. Future expansion will go all the way to Oxford (Miami University), stopping in Ross and Millville on the way.

The next north-south line would be an express line from downtown Hamilton all the way downtown. It would stop in Fairfield, Pleasant Run, Mt Healthy, North College Hill, and connect with the tunnel going through Northside to complete the downtown trip. The tunnel would also go to the westside Hamilton in addition to the Eastside.

The final north-side line subway line before hitting the original line mentioned in this post would be from Liberty Township on the 747 side (Princeton-Glendale Road) to downtown. This line will be one of the the busiest lines (if not the busiest) line in all of Cincinnati. It will go from downtown to Over the Rhine (OTR), University of Cincinnati (Clifton), Saint Bernard, Elmwood Place, Wyoming, Woodlawn, Glendale, Springdale (Tri-County Mall), Port Union, all the way up to Princeton Road. Future expansion of the line would go slightly east to the intersection of Route 4 and Liberty Fairfield, to the Miller Coors Brewery, downtown Trenton, and into Middletown at Hook Field (now Middletown Regional Airport).

And now for the ultimate question: Would the Cincinnati Subway connect with the Dayton subway? The answer would be yes, but after expansion. The faster route will always be the bullet train. But an alternative route would be from Cincinnati to Dayton at a cheaper price. However, there would be a connection made at the future Springboro station to transfer either to the Dayton Subway or the Cincinnati Subway. Since the bullet train would provide an immediate connection between the cities, it would be unlikely for a subway tunnel that long to be built connecting the subway systems immediately.

To view my entire master plan for how to fix our transportation and infrastructure, click here.

Image Credit: Jonathan Warren, obtained from Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Brian Cole

I'm Brian and I'm the founder of I have a strong passion for fixing America's transportation infrastructure problem and traffic flow issues. I ultimately want to see the American economy grow as far as it will go, create massive amounts of jobs, and in that way help the quality of how people live.