There aren’t that many cities with subway systems in the United States. Sure, there’s New York, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., but did you know that Los Angeles also has a limited subway system?
Near the turn of the century, even the city of Cincinnati, Ohio, nearly joined this exclusive public transportation fraternity.
Today, downtown Cincinnati looks like this. It’s sliced almost down the middle by Interstate 75.
During rush hour, the interstate turns into a nightmare. Even a commute of a few miles can take hours.
However, the congestion nightmare that is Interstate 75 almost never came to be. Shortly before World War I, the city of Cincinnati vowed to build a subway system modeled after New York City’s system.
This was a time in American history before the car had become the de facto American mode of transportation. As the population of cities swelled, desperate mayors sought ways to ease traffic problems. Cincinnati was actually one of several cities in the Midwest who declared their intention to build a subway system.
Of the cities who planned to have subways, Cincinnati was the only one to actually start construction.
During those early years of the 1900s, workmen dug over two miles of tunnels beneath the city and constructed several dozen subway stations. In fact, the entire underground network of tunnels and stations still exists today.
You’re probably wondering, “If they built most of the subway system, why is it not being used today?” Well, things were looking good for the Cincinnati subway until the U.S. got involved in World War I.
The massive war effort diverted needed resources from the subway construction and it needed to be halted for several years during and then immediately after the war. While construction eventually resumed, Cincinnati’s politicians were busy making backroom deals with automakers that would eventually kill the subway idea completely.
In the years since, there have been many attempts to revive the subway idea, but none of them have gained very much momentum.
Still, despite the age of the tunnels, recent inspections have found that they are still in remarkably good shape.
If you’re walking around Cincinnati and paying attention, you might just come across one of the many sealed entrances to the subway system that never was, like the one below.
(via: Atlas Obscura)
That is both amazing and utterly heartbreaking. What a waste of manpower to build something that epic, then just have it sit there. If the tunnels are still good, hopefully one day city officials will make a real effort to revive the subway idea.