Sunday, January 03, 2010

Abandoned rail bed along Cuyahoga River would make Cleveland's waterfronts more accessible -- editorial

I've known for years (as have many others) about Irishtown Bend's slope problems. The city surely has known since they repaved it every year or so while the shortcut between the east and west bank was open; that is, a shortcut during the shipping season's inevitable closing of a lift bridge while a ship made its way to and from the steel yards. I bet one could find at least a foot thick layer of asphalt at the corner where most of the slippage is happening. Does the additional weight of this asphalt perpetuate the slippage?

A somewhat similar thing happened to a portion of I-71 between the Denison Avenue Bridge and the Fulton Road/West 25th Street exit ramp. Much of that are of I-71 is built on a landfill. This particular portion of the freeway would develop a dip and every year or so ODOT would come in and add a layer of pavement. Don't know how many years this was going on, but someone somewhere made the decision to fix it permanently.

I had the opportunity to be on site halfway through the project. I was at least 30 ft below the southbound portion of the freeway - the northbound portion was completely dug up and sent away. Walking around the site was a test in foot skills. There were little spots of earth-like material which, when step on, would become a soft batter-like substance. If the pancake-sized spots were large enough, a person could have easily been sucked in. As it were, if one unknowingly stepped into one of the spots in a certain way, they easily could have tripped and then have some stinky, landfill batter on their boots.

The asphalt layer was a site to behold. When first driving up to it, you could see it was large. But when I was right up to it - well, as close as they would let me - the enormity was mind blowing. No joke - a SUV or minivan could be buried inside of the asphalt and nobody would have known. After they removed the asphalt and as mush of the unstable soil as they could, new soil was added to the site and then about a 10 foot thick layer of some man-made compound that is supposed to keep the ground stable enough to handle the weight of the traffic, as well as the actual infrastructure. 

Is this something that could be used for Irishtown Bend? Don't know - I'm not an engineer. There is also Puritas Hill to think about. There are/were slope issues there before it was closed and the road stabilized. I don't have story for that - it just popped into my head. Regardless, it will be a great day when the Tow Path Trail is complete. Hopefully it won't take as long as the PeeDee implies.

Abandoned rail bed along Cuyahoga River would make Cleveland's waterfronts more accessible -- editorial
By The Plain Dealer Editorial Board
January 03, 2010, 4:02AM
The deal that enables Parkworks, the superb Cleveland nonprofit, to take ownership of a 1.3-mile strip of abandoned rail bed along the west bank of the Cuyahoga River represents the culmination of many months of careful work, planning and negotiating by a wide coalition of public and private actors who share a common goal: to help make Cleveland a more beautiful, livable, exciting city by making its waterfronts more accessible.
But the $3.2 million transaction -- engineered by the conservation group Trust for Public Land, with a $1.2 million grant from the state of Ohio and a $2 million donation from property-owner Earl Walker, a local investor and college professor -- is far from the end of this collaboration's efforts.
Parkworks now will hire -- with help from the George Gund Foundation -- a design and engineering team to turn the coalition's vision of riverside trails, green space and wetlands into a workable plan.
As cost estimates emerge, Parkworks and other partners will begin looking for sources to pay for it.
Eventually, the idea is to link this system with the Towpath Trail -- which, when complete, will stretch for 110 miles from Tuscarawas County to Canal Basin Park on the east bank of the river -- and with the county's Wendy Park on Whiskey Island.
City and county officials have been working to secure money -- much of it from Washington, they hope -- to build two pedestrian walkways and to rehabilitate the old Whiskey Island Coast Guard station.
They also are seeking grants to stabilize a slope along Irishtown Bend that engineers fear could slide into the Cuyahoga.
Discussions of this project began in 2006. Two years later, landscape architects from San Francisco doing survey work in the Flats noticed an overgrown track bed that had been built in 1856 as part of the Ohio & Mahoning Railroad. They realized that it not only offered an ideal connection from Ohio City and Tremont north to Whiskey Island, it also ran smack into property under the Main Avenue Bridge that the county already owns.
Completing this project will take years. But the cooperation and civic leadership that have brought it this far bode well for its success.