Cincinnati Subway

by MIKALIA WENKER '14


The year is 1920 and the city of Cincinnati is booming. The city thrives as populations continue to pour in. Naturally, as the region flourishes, plans begin to develop for a subway system much like the ones being constructed in major cities like Philadelphia and New York. So where is this supposed subway? Its remains, lying beneath our feet.

A map of the subway as of 1925. Red indicates the tunnels that were built, blue shows the intended plans, and yellow for the planned stations.

When Cincinnati decided to add a subway system in the 1920s, the entire project had to be locally funded because, at the time, there was very little federal funding towards these transportation projects. The city managed to build 7 miles of tunnels before the Great Depression and WWII hit and wiped out their funds. Currently, the tunnels run from Downtown’s central business district up to Norwood with the main tunnel running for two miles under Central Parkway starting at Walnut St. Along these seven miles of concrete tunnels, there are three underground stations located at Race St., Liberty St., and Brighton’s Corner.

So how would life in Cincinnati be different if these plans followed through? An obvious assumption would be that the city would have continued to prosper and grow throughout the 20th Century especially since the subway would have been one of the few built prior to WWII. Additionally, the multiple layouts and designs that were proposed were far more different and complex than those in existence and would have been seen as a novel to many tourists.

A view of one of the tunnel openings off of I-75

On a more personal note, these subways would have been extremely beneficial to students here at SUA. Since The Academy is so close to downtown, it would make students’ access to the cultural center of our city much easier. If these plans would have gone through, the SUA community could be attending school via subway rather than driving. The system would have also changed the setup of the highway system since the tunnels planned to go where I-71, I-75, and the Norwood Lateral are currently today.

Interested in seeing these abandoned tunnels? Chances are you have driven by the entrance seen off of I-75 but if you really want to go inside these abandoned tunnels, the Cincinnati Museum Center offers yearly tours through their heritage programs. Find your tickets here and immerse yourself in some Cincinnati history.