A federal board has given the city of Dayton 180 days to try to negotiate a deal to purchase or lease 6.5 miles of rail track it wants to convert into a “high line” trail overlooking the urban center.
This month, the Surface Transportation Board ordered that the city has until Oct. 30 to reach an interim trail use or rail banking agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway Company.
After that, Norfolk Southern can completely abandon the line, which has not been used in years and stretches from just east of Wayne Avenue to the Tenneco property in Kettering.
The city is interested in transforming the elevated rail line into a bike trail and public park, similar to high line parks in New York City and Chicago, which are popular tourist and recreation destinations.
City staff earlier this year warned that the high line is only in the conceptual phase. But staff have said the biggest obstacle to making the project happen is acquiring the rail line.
Norfolk Southern recently filed to abandon the rail line that starts near the eastern edge of Garden Station and runs southeast on the north side of U.S. 35.
The line crosses U.S. 35 before reaching Woodman and winds south until hitting a dead-end at the Tenneco facility. The line has not been in use for 10 or more years, city staff said.
In March, the city submitted a request to the Surface Transportation Board asking that Norfolk Southern be prohibited from removing essential components of the rail corridor. The city also requested the company be barred from removing bridges, trestles, culverts and tunnels.
Under the board’s order, Norfolk Southern cannot fully abandon the line for six months. The company agreed to negotiate sale or lease or the line for trail use.
The rail corridor would provide a recreational trail connecting downtown Dayton and tens of thousands of residents into the more than 300 miles of existing paved trails in region, the city argued in its request to the Surface Transportation Board.
The rail runs east along an elevated track for multiple blocks, overlooking the Third Street corridor on the northern side.
The city envisions creating an elevated bike trail and public park, similar to the very popular and award-winning High Line in New York City and the 606 in Chicago.
The trail also would link into the Creekside Trail bike path and would better connect downtown and the Oregon Historic District to the inner east neighborhoods, city officials said.
The Dayton region has the largest network of paved bike trails in the nation.
RELATED: The 5 best Miami Valley bike trails