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Dayton could get ‘high line’ elevated bike trail like NYC, Chicago

The city of Dayton would like to transform an unused, elevated rail line that begins downtown and runs southeast into a bike trail and public park. 

Norfolk Southern rail company has filed to abandon a six-mile stretch of rail that runs from Wayne Avenue near the former site of Garden Station to the Tenneco property in Kettering, city officials said.

The project could be transformational and would connect downtown to the Historic Inner East neighborhoods and link into the regional trail system, said Jon White, city of Dayton planner.  

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However, this is just a vision for the rail line, and bringing it to life would take a lot of work, time and money, White said.  

“This is a long ways away from happening,” he said. “But it’s something we’re pursuing for sure.”

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“This is something the neighborhoods have been talking about for a very long time,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. “This is a big deal.” 

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The city has formally begun the process to negotiate with Norfolk Southern to try to acquire or lease the rail line to support park upgrades, said Aaron Sorrell, Dayton’s director of planning and community development.

The rail runs along an elevated track from Wayne Avenue for multiple blocks, and the project would seek to make a park that overlooks parts of the urban center like the High Line in New York City or the 606 in Chicago.

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The rail line is elevated until a little beyond Keowee Street. The line winds east and south until it finally hits a dead-end at the Tenneco property, west of Woodman Drive.

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The city and Norfolk Southern currently disagree what the rail line property is worth, but officials said they hope a fair price can be negotiated. A city-funded appraisal valued the line at $730,000.

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Norfolk Southern has not used the line for probably more than a decade, Sorrell said.

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Transforming the rail into a park would likely cost millions of dollars, but there are grants available for rails to trails projects, Sorrell said.

A variety of bike trails across the region were once rail lines.

White emphasized that this project is just in the early stages and is not close to happening.

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