Westside Corridor Purchase is Complete:
Tribute to Regional Partnership
In the planning stages since at least 1997, an 11-mile rail corridor that has been vacated by CSX has finally been purchased by a consortium of regional partners for future use as a multi-use trail. The purchase was complete October 31, 2011.
The acquisition of the corridor is a testament to strong regional cooperation and persistence. Metroparks of the Toledo Area, University of Toledo, City of Toledo, Wood County Park District, Wood County Port Authority, and TMACOG are the regional partners. The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national non-profit agency with expertise in land conservation that served as a facilitator during negotiations. ODOT was also engaged on key issues.
Warren Henry, TMACOG vice president of Transportation, is a strong advocate for the corridor. When questioned about the value of a bicycle and pedestrian trail when the entire transportation system is under financial constraints, he said, Cooperation involved complex coordination of responsibilities and financial arrangements. The corridor is a priority in TMACOG’s long range transportation plans which are created with input from regional stakeholders. ODOT guided the partners though the right-of-way acquisition procedures and advised on legal compliance. ODOT also performed structural inspections of the Maumee River rail bridge and coordinated the disbursement of federal funds through the Federal Highway Administration.
The Trust for Public Land did due diligence research and managed appraisals among other tasks. Kim Kimlin, the project manager for TPL, said that, “This project is emblematic of regional cooperation at every level. We are impressed with the commitment of people in the region.” The trust has taken temporary ownership of the property and also provided a bridge loan until all the financing is in place. Kimlin said that the trust will own the land “for about a minute” and then all the partners will assume responsibility.
Scott Carpenter, director of public relations for the Metroparks of the Toledo Area, said that Jack Gallon, a previous president of the Metroparks Board of Trustees, was passionate about securing the corridor from the beginning. When the Metroparks passed a levy in 2002 for land purchases, one of the highest priorities was rails to trails conversions. Carpenter said that every public survey since then has shown consistently high support for bike and pedestrian paths. Tim Schetter, land planning and acqusitions manager at the Metroparks, continued the drive. He described the potential trail as “a tremendous benefit to the community.”
Cyclists and walkers can’t celebrate on the trail just yet. The partners involved note that so far they have purchased and preserved the land, and all agree that a multi-use path should be established, but additional funds need to be secured for the big work to grade, pave, provide signage, as well as to build a bridge across the Maumee River. That work will proceed in sections with much opportunity for public involvement. One part of the path that goes through the University of Toledo campuses is still being used by Norfolk Southern. Parts of the path to the north and to the south of that section will likely be developed first.
Follow events concerning the Westside Corridor here on the TMACOG website.