Thursday, January 11, 2007

More "Innerbelt Re-Evaluation"?

Yesterday, Crain's Cleveland reported on ODOT's presentation to Cleveland City Council regarding the Innerbelt. With new Governor Strickland's replacement of all the management at ODOT and the increasingly strong public outcry, we are likely to see more "re-evaluations."

There will be a meeting in Tremont on February 1.

Inner Belt plan is being re-evaluated


3:06 pm, January 10, 2007

The Ohio Department of Transportation continues to backpedal on its plans for rebuilding and reconfiguring the Innerbelt Freeway that serves downtown Cleveland.

An ODOT official told Cleveland City Council today that the state agency is re-evaluating the impact of the project on city streets and is planning to replace the existing bridge across the Flats with two new bridges. ODOT is responding to complaints from local community groups and businesspeople worried about the impact of the changes on their neighborhoods and businesses.

The complaints have come from businesses ranging from fast-food restaurants to the Cleveland Indians; the latter worries that the closing of some on-off ramps will make it harder for fans to get to Jacobs Field.

At a hearing today before City Council, Craig Hebebrand, ODOT’s Innerbelt project manager, stood by the plan to close several downtown exits but said the agency is considering changes that would relieve traffic at two key downtown intersections that will see additional traffic when the ramps close — at East Ninth Street and Carnegie Avenue and at East 30th Street and Chester Avenue.

“We’re not going to gridlock city streets,” Mr. Hebebrand pledged.

Mr. Hebebrand told City Council members that the stretch of freeway from the Shoreway to the bridge across the Flats on Interstate 90 — called the “trench” — has the highest level of accidents of any stretch of freeway in the state, even though it is not the busiest. He said the trench averages two accidents a day.

The ODOT plan, Mr. Hebebrand said, would cut that accident rate by closing several ramps at Broadway, Carnegie, Prospect, St. Clair and Lakeside avenues and reconfiguring the remaining interchanges at Superior and Chester avenues and East 22nd Street.

Mr. Hebebrand said any loss of jobs at companies that must relocate because their property is taken for the rebuilding or some of their business is lost will be countered by an increase in construction jobs during the 15-year construction period and by other new jobs that come to the area.

“There will be no significant change” in employment in the region, he said.

ODOT has studied the issue and estimates that over the construction period the area will lose about 37 permanent jobs but will gain 115 jobs for a net gain of 78 jobs.

One span not enough

The decision to build two bridges instead of one responds to concerns that the existing 50-year-old span across the Flats could not be rehabilitated to last another 50 years. The plan now is to build one new bridge, carrying westbound traffic, by 2015 and then build another, replacing the current bridge, by 2025.

However, comments from City Council members suggest that ODOT’s revised plan is not being well-received. During the question-and-answer session, downtown Councilman Joe Cimperman wondered what would happen if City Council declined to pass legislation that would give ODOT an approval it needs to move ahead.

Some audience observers who have a stake in the outcome of the discussion also were not satisfied with the changes.

James Haviland, executive director of MidTown Cleveland Inc., a community development group that serves an area just east of the Innerbelt, said he believes the plan still has significant flaws, particularly in the way it diverts traffic onto Chester Avenue and away from Carnegie.

“They (ODOT) have said (the plan) will increase traffic on some streets and that will have an impact on Chester,” slowing down traffic heading to east to University Circle and beyond, he said. “And Carnegie will have less traffic and it has the most traffic-dependent businesses.”

Central Cadillac, several fast-food restaurants and other businesses along Carnegie rely on traffic past their front doors for business, Mr. Haviland said.

Michael Coticchia, chief administrative officer of Applied Industrial Technologies Inc., in the past has said his company would consider moving its 300-plus employees from its Midtown building if the Prospect Avenue exit was closed.

“If Prospect goes, we will consider our options,” he said after today’s hearing.


Ryan said...

I can't imagine how hectic traffic would be during something like this.

Thankfully, I don't take the inner belt to work. I'm not the most patient person in traffic ;)

Scott said...

What's really going to suck id when people realize that construction will have started on the West Shoreway downgrade at the same time. Luckily, there are a few, seldom used roads that will help westsiders like me get downtown (assuming I am still working downtown at the time).

Cleveland Carole Cohen 3C said...

I found your blog tonight and I love it. As for traffic, at least Cleveland is laid out somewhat on a grid, so I plan on ferreting out as many alternate routes as possible to be prepared lol. A little pain for some progress is a good idea but I may not be saying that when I'm in my car.