Active Transportation Plan

Active Transportation Plan

Hamilton’s Active Transportation Plan was officially initiated in 2019, though its roots go back further than that. The extensive plan included collecting data, gathering community input, and determining the feasibility of potential projects. Though several identified projects within the plan have been slowed down, the City made some major gains in 2023.

“The goal of the Active Transportation Plan is to get people around in the community,” says Liz Hayden, Director of Planning for the City of Hamilton. “We must invest in infrastructure to make it safe.”

While many projects hang in the balance due to delayed funding, Allen Messer, Assistant Director of Engineering for the City of Hamilton, is pleased with the progress thus far.

“It’s cool that we can check off a few projects,” says Messer. “We are starting to see some serious progress.”

“I’m excited with what we’ve been able to do,” adds Hayden, “and where we are headed."

In its heyday, the Hamilton Belt Line Railroad ran across Hamilton, up to North B Street and then south along the Great Miami River, eventually ending on Champion Paper Mill property. The short railway allowed local industry to stay connected, grow, and thrive over the next 100 years until it became a “Ghost Railroad” in 2012.

The City of Hamilton had plans to repurpose the Beltline in 2016, and
in 2019, they acquired the Beltline corridor for an approximate cost of $925,000. Total grants earned for the acquisition are near $700,000 and counting.

According to the Active Transportation Plan, the City’s goal for the repurposed Beltline is to “redevelop an abandoned railroad into a multi-purpose trail that will connect multiple neighborhoods with the riverfront, downtown and Spooky Nook Sports center.” If it were only that simple.

Because the City relies on state and federal grants to fund the work, the project must be completed in phases. “The grants max-out,” says Messer. “The project is divided up into phases to correspond with grant funding.” Out of the five phases of the Beltline project, Phase 3 is currently under construction with hopes to finish by November of 2024.

The phasing complicates the project a bit, but the City has also experienced delays and complications because of the significant changes in the community. “We had to start in the middle,”says Messer. “We were waiting on the progress and impact of Spooky Nook before we could move forward.”

Because the big picture of the Beltline project includes eventually connecting Spooky Nook to downtown, there could be a major impact on the City’s economy in the near future.

“I’m hopeful to see some of that economic impact after Phase 3 is complete,” says Hayden.

The City has been awarded enough grant money to take Phase 4 from design and then start on a portion. Because a bridge is involved in this phase, the City will be working with Burgess & Niple, an Engineering and Architecture firm, as a consultant.

Safe Streets for All is a federal program that provides communities funding for implementing speed management strategies, installing improvements to better protect pedestrians, augmenting streets to establish separated bike lanes, and the development of safer street crossings.

The Knightsbridge Project involves converting Knightsbridge Drive (from Neilan Boulevard to University Boulevard) from a four lane section to a three lane section with a center two-way left and buffered bike lane. Essentially, Knightsbridge Drive is getting what is called a ‘road diet.’

“We are pushing for major intersection improvements as well,” says Hayden. “Essentially, what could eventually be, a much more inviting portal to the river.”

The City is proud of the grant they’ve received for this project. Out of the $2 million total awarded in the state, Hamilton earned $400,000, the largest amount in the state. Messer attributes the money awarded to the merit of the City’s application.

“The creativity of the ‘ask’ might have set us apart,” Messer admits. “We are using the dividers on Knightsbridge to collect data and help inform future decisions on road improvements.”

The “demonstration” includes a buffered bike lane that will be
separated by dividers and data will be collected to decide how effective the road diet has been. Essentially, the intent of the project is to decrease vehicle speeds on Knightsbridge Drive and increase bicycle use.

While 80 percent of the project will be covered by the grant, the remaining $100,000 will come from the City.

“It’s a new program,” Messer says. “We’ve been awarded the grant, but we are still waiting on the agreement.” Because the Safe Streets for All program requires the City to match the grant awarded, Hamilton has to wait until funding is received to
officially start the project.

“Money the City spends before the agreement is signed doesn’t count towards the total,” Messer says. “The City is still brainstorming and working from the budget, but funding will be needed to keep the project going.”

The City hopes to take some steps forward on this project in 2024

Hamilton has been a proud recipient of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School annual program four years in a row.

According to the Ohio Department of Transportation SRTS Program guide, the state awards funding to cities who “promote walking and bicycling to school through infrastructure improvements, enforcement, tools, safety education, and incentives to encourage walking and bicycling to school.” The program also aims to focus on methods to “reduce traffic around schools, improve safety, air quality, and levels of physical activity for students.”

The City has utilized grant money to complete improvements and the installation of sidewalks and crosswalks identified in Van Hook Phase 1, near Linden Elementary, in 2022 and hopes to wrap up Van Hook Phase 2 by December 2024.

The Wasserman Road project, near Ridgeway Elementary, involves installing a sidewalk where one doesn’t currently exist. The City was awarded $390,000 for this project and they hope to begin construction in January 2025 and finish by the summer of 2025.

The City was awarded a $372,000 grant in 2023 to improve travel routes for students and families near Crawford Woods Elementary. Construction for this project is scheduled to begin in 2025.

“It is slow moving,” admits Messer. “We are waiting on the actual grant and the design needs to be reviewed by the state. All of this combined tends to lengthen schedules.”

The Safe Routes to School program also promotes non-infrastructure methods of encouraging safe travel to and from school. Most recently, both Highland Elementary and Linden Elementary celebrated Walk or Bike to School Day, and the City hopes that the improvements made because of the Safe Routes to School program grants will only inspire more schools
to follow suit.

“We’re always working to improve,” says Hayden, referring to the non-infrastructure programs offered in the City. “We are looking for grants to fund the educational front.”

“You can only get so far with the infrastructure,” Messer admits.

In the meantime, the City will also rely on the ever popular Safety Town program to help educate and encourage students to travel safely.

You can read about all the great things happening in Hamilton here.

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