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Taking action for the region and the Earth

Marc Lefkowitz  |  04/17/09 @ 10:20am

The coming week is as momentous to friends of the environment as the recent Rock Hall inductions were for music fans. Many groups are throwing Earth Day parties, open houses and festivals to celebrate environmental awareness and the arrival of spring. It's also an important time to weigh in on major planning projects shaping the future of the region.

A new vision for transportation

Northeast Ohio's transportation planning agency has an opportunity to redefine its role as a leader while bracing for the impact of climate change. NOACA's update to its long-range plan is a golden opportunity to set the course for sustainable transportation and land-use. But will the agency embrace change and offer clear metrics, or will it fall back on old ways? Will the plan recognize climate change and offer a plan to reduce our impact by setting measurable goals for more bike lanes and racks, for more buses and trains in order to reduce vehicle miles traveled? Will it join the ranks of Boston, Denver and Charlotte where they're looking at infill development as a means to lessen transportation demand? Read GCBL's talking points, and submit a comment here.

A bridge to the future?

The Innerbelt Project stands to be the largest infrastructure investment in our lifetimes. Will it be an investment in sustainable urban growth (one of the key goals) or will it only focus on moving traffic? ODOT has released its environmental impact statement which claims that no major impacts will be felt. We argue that ODOT's framework and therefore the process has been flawed from the outset. This is an urban redevelopment, not a road building project. If ODOT were a sustainable transportation agency, its modeling would look beyond the flow of traffic on the highway to consider the impact that closing downtown ramps will have on air quality as cars stack up at the one remaining downtown exit. ODOT admits the ramp closing at Carnegie will impact on surface streets during rush hour and urban planners such as Tom Bier have noted it will lead to the granddaddy of all traffic snarls.

In a larger sense, we haven't once considered the role a sustainable long-range transportation plan (see above) has in shaping the Innerbelt. Has ODOT considered while adding more capacity for cars the Innerbelt may induce more sprawl and create more air pollution? We deserve better than what we're getting now. At minimum, we need to consider the impact of the Carnegie exit closing and insist on a signature Innerbelt Bridge with bike lanes. Read the case for bike lanes on the bridge, and a vision to handle the bulk of the region's transportation issues here. And leave your comments for ODOT here, or tell them in person at next Tuesday's public meeting about the Innerbelt Environmental Impact Statement.

Events celebrating Earth Day

  • The Cleveland Stonewall Democrats are celebrating Earth Day with a meeting about green initiatives in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County on April 16.
  • Tremont Electric celebrates a patent for its Personal Energy Generator which powers iPods, cell phones and PDAs through the kinetic energy of walking with an open house this Friday, April 17.
  • Beachwood High School marketing students host the 2nd annual GreenDream showcase, an exhibit of 70 local green businesses and concepts on April 17. Click here for details.
  • Show the earth some love this Sunday, April 19 by biking or taking the free RTA 'clean' air bus from Public Square to the Zoo for EarthFest 2009. Health tips, a rain garden demonstration, calculate your carbon footprint, get hands on green building advice and update on environmental activities from 160 groups and businesses in the region. Read more.
  • The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour brings adventure, extreme sports, cultural and environmental films to town for an exclusive Cleveland showing at the Allen Theatre, Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18.
  • Get ideas on how to reduce your environmental impact at Akron's Learn Green, Live Green festival and at the Slavic Village's Work green, play green, live green both on Saturday, April 18.
  • LightsOut Ohio, organized by Sierra Club's Portage Trail Group, is seeking out workplaces, schools and churches pledging to switch off non-essential lights for at least one hour on Earth Day, April 22, as a simple step toward making energy saving choices every day.
  • "Who's your mama?" 3rd annual EarthDay and environmental film festival in Kent on April 24. A website powered by the wind is found at whosyourmama.org.
  • Northcoast Nature Festival of the Cleveland Metroparks, April 24-26

Also check out the "Building our Future Beyond Foreclosure" forum series at the Cleveland State University Levin College of Urban Affairs, which kicks off on April 23.

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