"America's abandoned subway" -- The Cincinnati subway was started around the turn of the 20th century as a project to solve 2 problems: 1) Make use of the remains of the Miami-Erie canal. 2) Give the city of Cincinnati a transit system that would serve her population's needs over the next century.

The Miami-Erie canal was in declining use in the early 1900s due to the increasing national importance of the railroad and its inability to handle bigger and faster ships. So plans were made to drain its water and lay subway tracks down instead. The plan was to use 8 miles the canal, covered, as the main portion of a subway that would ultimately loop around and pass through the city center, to meet up with itself again.

Construction was begun on the canal portion, but due to projections of insufficient usage, the plan was reduced in scope, to one which would have a spur splitting off the end of the canal, and only run to downtown Cincinnati, rather than loop all the way around. Come 1917, the USA got involved in World War I and halted all government bonds, which the city had been relying on to fund construction. So construction halted, until after the war.

Construction was resumed, but corruption slowed progress and the Great Depression hit before work was started on anything beyond the canal section. Construction was halted again, and by the time the Depression was over, as well as World War II, automobiles were the predominant mode of transportation. This, combined with the cost of the project (steadily growing over the past 40 years), finally forced a complete shutdown of tunnel construction.

So, as there was still no link to the city center, and no spur at the far end of the canal, the Cincinnati subway ended up being a subway from nowhere important to nowhere important. While the canal section was complete, including tracks and stations, nothing else was.

Its fate was cemented when, after the Eisenhower Interstate system was initiated, the I-75 was built over significant portions of the intended route. And later, in the early 1970's, a major water main was run through most of the existing tunnel, rendering it unusable for trains, or much else.

To this day, all eight miles of the Cincinnati subway remains shut off and abandoned (although in perfect shape), a relic of turn of the century hopes and optimism, with not a single train ever having known its tracks.
There is a tunnel portal for the old subway visible from I-75. It is in a retaining wall in a steep hillside on the East side of the freeway just south of all the exits for all the viaducts and right after Central Parkway stops going along I-75. At this point the subway would have emerged from underground, and would have run at grade along the Mill Creek valley for a bit, which is now home to I-75.

The original plan was for a single circlular subway line, using the covered canal bed discribed above and emerging at the portals along I-75, continuing north at grade level and then veering east, approximately following the route of the present day Norwood Lateral. Then it would have ran at grade through Oakley, Hyde Park, and East Walnut Hills, before descending downtown on an elevated concrete trestle. Then it would have run underground through downtown back to the canal bed section. Only the canal section was completed. Interestingly, the city of Newark did build a functioning subway using an abandoned canal bed.

A postscript to the story of the Cincinnati subway is as follows:

The streetcar lines of Cincinnati were torn up beginning in the 30s, due to some choice bribes from General Motors, including the spectacular unique lifts that took said streetcars up the hillsides. After the Second World War, much of the city was torn down to make way for freeways and suburbanization commenced at a rapid rate. While the metro bus system operated at a level somewhat better than bus systems in other cities, public transportation was and is basically a joke.

There has been perpetual talk in the last 15 years of building a light rail line or two, and this now seems somewhat likely.

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