Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Innerbelt News Update: "Innerbelt plan aims to ease traffic congestion"

From Yahoo News:

Innerbelt plan aims to ease traffic congestion

Bruce Geiselman, Yahoo! Contributor Network
The Innerbelt Bridge project, which is beginning this spring, is part of a larger plan that eventually will help reduce traffic bottlenecks near Downtown Cleveland, according to state transportation officials.
The Innerbelt Bridge replacement is the first phase of a freeway improvement plan that could take decades to complete. The entire plan involves improving entrance and exit ramps to reduce congestion along the Innerbelt Freeway, and reducing the angle of Deadman's Curve.
The Ohio Department of Transportation first will build two new bridges over the Cuyahoga River - one eastbound and one westbound. The bridge replacement project won't be completed until 2016.
Federal transportation stimulus funds will help replace the existing 50-year-old bridge after inspections revealed that steel members were aging faster than expected. While the work will address safety issues, it will also help improve traffic flow along Interstate 90, said Joel Hunt, an ODOT spokesman.
Four of the 10 areas in Metropolitan Cleveland most prone to traffic bottlenecks are along Interstate 90 within a few miles of the Innerbelt Bridge, Hunt said, referencing recent traffic data.
The traffic data indicates that I-90 westbound near Chester Avenue is the area most prone to traffic bottlenecks in Greater Cleveland. The data showed that an area of approximately one-quarter mile near the exit is congested an average of 17 hours per week with an average traffic speed during congestion of 15.9 miles per hour.
The second most congested area is also along I-90 westbound at Superior Avenue, followed by I-90 westbound at Prospect Avenue. Finally, I-90 eastbound near I-71 is ranked eighth in terms of traffic bottlenecks.
"Each of the congested areas along I-90 will be addressed as part of the Cleveland Innerbelt Plan, which will improve safety, reduce congestion and traffic delays, and modernize interstate travel along I-71, I-77 and I-90 through Downtown Cleveland," Hunt said.
Each of the two new Innerbelt bridges will result in improved traffic flow by increasing the number of lanes. Each new bridge will carry five lanes of traffic - one more than currently exists today, Hunt said.
According to a 2010 national traffic scorecard, the top 10 areas in Metropolitan Cleveland subject to traffic bottlenecks are:
  1. I-90 westbound at Chester Avenue
  2. I-90 westbound at Superior Avenue
  3. I-90 westbound at Prospect Avenue
  4. I-480 eastbound at Lee Road
  5. I-71 northbound at West 14th Street/Exit 247 south of the Innerbelt
  6. I-271 southbound at US-422/Miles Road
  7. I-77 northbound at East 14th Street
  8. I-90 eastbound at I-71
  9. I-71 northbound at Pearl Road
  10. I-480 eastbound at Broadway
While crews are working on reconstructing and widening bridges and ramps along I-90, ODOT is recommending drivers avoid the construction zones by using I-77 and I-490 as a detour.
The two interstates are being restriped to add an extra lane of traffic in each direction.
The first phase of the project - constructing the westbound bridge - will cost $287.4 million with a fall 2013 completion date. The second phase - constructing the eastbound bridge - will begin in 2014 and be completed in 2016 at an estimated cost of $320 million.
After the westbound bridge is built, both eastbound and westbound traffic will share the new bridge until the eastbound bridge is built. The old Innerbelt Bridge will be torn down.
The Innerbelt Bridge replacement project is part of a much larger, long-term plan that will also improve entrance and exit ramps onto and off of the Innerbelt Freeway. The improved ramp system will further improve traffic flow, according to the transportation department. ODOT also plans to eventually reduce the angle of Deadman's Curve in a further effort to reduce traffic congestion and accidents.
"The Innerbelt Plan, which is many, many years down the line - and we're talking decades to do all this work - will take care of all of these problems," ODOT spokeswoman Jocelynn Clemings said. "But the bridge is a good start."
Some preliminary work, including utility relocations, building demolitions and some roadway work to improve an alternate route, already is under way, Clemings said. However, ODOT is planning an official groundbreaking for April.
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