By: Mike Rutledge
Hamilton should become an easier place for bicycling and walking along sidewalks because of two actions the city took last week, officials said.
City Council incorporated the city’s new Active Transportation Plan into the city’s overall strategic plan for improvement, called Plan Hamilton.
“It’s focused on pedestrian and bike improvements, and especially with the streets levy and the increase in doing road-paving projects, it will serve as a road map, every time we identify a stretch of road, we have this very thoughtful document that was put together with the help of a really talented consulting firm,” said city Planning Director Liz Hayden.
City staff and officials can ask themselves, “As we fix this road, should we also add a bike lane?”
The plan is also expected to help the city win grants from the state and elsewhere, Hayden said.
It was only because the city was working on the active transportation plan that Hamilton was eligible for the $367,000-plus Safe Routes to School grant that provided sidewalks for students who walk to Linden Elementary School.
The plan also will help Hamilton win additional grants for the Beltline biking and walking path that will work its way through the city’s West Side, for the Miami-to-Miami biking trail that will link the Great Miami and Little Miami rivers.
“We’re really chugging along with the Beltline,” Hayden said. “I feel that will come together sooner rather than later.”
Work has started on the first segment of the Beltline, with grants awarded for two other sections of it, including along the Great Miami’s western shoreline, past the Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill indoor sports complex to Main Street.
Although the city already knew where significant sidewalk gaps were, such as along Main Street in the large retail area near the western edge of the city, “this formalizes the need to complete our sidewalk system,” Hayden said.
“We’ve been lucky enough to have positive development momentum in that area along the Chipotle, and so we have this opportunity to put sidewalks in, in the short-term,” she said. “Pretty soon, the sidewalks on the other side of the street from Kroger will be almost complete.”
Better bicycling possibilities
In another move, the council last week authorized an application for a $187,290.00 grant from Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Clean Ohio Trail Fund to help build 1½ miles of the Miami to Miami bike trail that will link the Great Miami River and its bike paths with those along the Little Miami River.
“This is a vision to connect the Little Miami Scenic Trail in Warren County around the Mason-Lebanon area to the Great Miami River Trail in Hamilton,” said Wade Johnston, director of Tri-State Trails, a bicycle-trail advocacy organization that has worked with governments and other organizations in a 10-county area.
The Miami to Miami Action Plan, finished in 2018, prioritized a route that followed part of the old Miami & Erie Canal corridor. Following that, Hamilton and MetroParks of Butler County received a federal Transportation Alternatives Program grant through the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments that will pay up to $510,064 of the estimated $744,176 cost.
The ODNR grant would reduce Hamilton’s local-share payment from $423,112, to $46,822.
The trail ends now near Gilmore MetroPark, “and Hamilton and MetroParks are working to extend that trail west through that park, and that’ll get it closer to the city of Hamilton,” Johnston said. “The goal is to eventually link that all the way up into downtown Hamilton and connect to the Great Miami River Trail. One mile at a time, through.”
The segment for which Hamilton is seeking more money would link into an existing 3 miles of trail and would be “the first step toward completing the connection between the Little Miami trail and the Great Miami trail,” Hayden said.