Cincinnati’s forgotten $40 million project

The Riverfront Transit Center

“There’s a near $40 million project in Cincinnati, and I don’t know about it? No way.”

That is how I originally responded when I first heard this. Yes folks, there is a $40+ million project you hardly know exists. And yes, it was all for a now abandoned bus station.

Construction on the Riverfront Transit Center began in 1999 and it was dedicated in the spring of 2003. The transit center was built to replace the event bus staging area that was lost when t

he Riverfront Stadium Plaza was demolished, provide a space for loading dock access for Banks developments and provide a corridor for a future light rail system.

The taxpayers spit out about $23 million to go towards the transit center, as it looked like it was a “futuristic” project. The idea was for it to eventually have a bunch of underground hubs connecting to it, and some people even say it had hopes of stretching all the way to Columbus with above ground rail. And eventually they planned to stretch the possible railway all the way down to Atlanta. That obviously did not happen.

In fact, the location of the center, which is right below Second Street, turned to be very problematic. It is in a “flood zone” and it has suffered dearly from that. Back in February of 2018, the Ohio River receded from its 61-foot crest and left a huge mess in Smale Park and in the transit center. The tunnel was nearly four feet under water, and had damage that cost $1.2 million to repair. While most of the work was finished in January, work on the elevators will require more time, meaning the repair project won’t be totally done until the end of March.

How ’bout that? Millions of dollars to repair damages on an abandoned tunnel. Seems smart to me.

We could have been a modernized city.

— Jack Ellert '19

I just wonder what it would have been like had that gone as planned. We spent so much of our money, and most to all Cincinnatians don’t even know that it exists. Lately it has just been working as parking for Bengals and Reds games. But aside from parking for Bengals and Reds games and as a layover for a Metro bus route, the transit center is a big space that often sees little activity.

The only activity other than parking, is that it serves as a concert venue a few times per year. The tunnel was the venue for Ubahn Fest, an annual two-day Hip Hop and Electronic Dance Music festival staged there since 2013. The festival drew artists such as Nas in 2016, the same year the, now deceased, Mac Miller performed. Last year’s lineup included 2 Chainz, Gucci Mane, and Big Sean. I will say that is a pretty solid lineup, and a pretty cool place to have a concert. It has also been used for another up and coming sport, drone racing

Now I am glad that they are finding different ideas for the center, as it appears they are getting more and more creative but it still is a failure all around. It would be really neat to have a railway system that stretched all the way from Columbus to Atlanta, and to be able to say that our city was the one that created it. As for the transit center now, it seems to be struggling to stay afloat, as it remains underwater.