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Cleveland puts tight seal on West Shoreway bike path deletion

Marc Lefkowitz  |  09/28/11 @ 2:00pm  |  Posted in West Shoreway

Cleveland's lakefront bike path and the promise of a Chicago-style lakefront buzzing with activity have been stripped out of the West Shoreway project-because the city of Cleveland views it as "not a necessity" when measured against a tunnel at W. 73rd Street which has seeped from $19 to $34 million. Bike advocates want to know, isn't it time the public weighed in on these wholesale changes to this taxpayer funded project?

The above statement, made by Mayor Jackson's Chief of Staff Ken Silliman to the Plain Dealer, indicate just how myopic the city's position on the West Shoreway has become. It would rather pursue the W. 73rd Street access point, which is primarily a tunnel for cars to access a marginal road and the Shoreway-and jettison bike/pedestrian access, connections and investments happening not just at Battery Park but in Ohio City and Tremont (who are losers in this deal with the W. 25th trailhead going away), Clifton, Lakewood and the region.

It's time for the city to re-evaluate the priorities of the Shoreway-with stakeholder input. Otherwise, when the Towpath Trail eventually connects millions of visitors to the city and the Lakefront, they'll stare out at the water rippling from the shoreline of Wendy Park, look west and say, 'hey, wouldn't it be nice to be able to bike or walk there?' And wouldn't the merchants in Detroit-Shoreway's Gordon Square-the ostensible reason for the W. 73rd tunnel-agree? Wouldn't all of the residents of the West Side wish they had a direct, safe connection to bike, run or stroll from the Flats West Bank and Whiskey Island to Edgewater and on to Clifton and Lakewood? Shouldn't they have an opportunity to express their opinion about the death and life of the lakefront multi-purpose path?

Zone thinks so. He told the PD that these changes "should be discussed" at a public meeting. Let's hold him to his word and insist that a public hearing get scheduled. There, Ken Silliman can explain in detail why access to the Lakefront and connections between city neighborhoods is or isn't a necessity. Let the public weigh in and have a say whether they agree a lakefront bike way and opening up access for all isn't more important that another tunnel and marginal road.

"West 73rd is the number one priority for the mayor," Councilman Zone told me after his testimony, with Cleveland Planning Director Bob Brown, at last week's ODOT TRAC meeting. They represented the city which is asking for an additional $28 million-the city has already received $52 million-for Phase I of the West Shoreway, he said.

"Half a billion dollars of investment is happening because of West 73rd" he said of Gordon Square and Battery Park about which he added, "We took a brownfield that was the poster child for Superfund sites and turned it into a $110 million investment."

"I can sympathize with the stakeholders who might not see W. 73rd as the highest and best use (of $34 million). I think its incumbent upon the Governor, the Mayor and City Council to find the funding to make sure all of Phase I (including the multi-purpose path) gets funded. We also shouldn't lose the safety improvements around W. 25th Street."

Zone said he's not concerned about project creep at W. 73rd and denied that the problems associated with hillside stabilization and water seepage from a brownfield site will necessitate reopening the project's environmental impact statement.

The big concern, then, is the sentiment expressed by Silliman. If the city doesn't see the lakefront multi-purpose path as "a necessity" than where is the guarantee that if ODOT gives them another $28 million they will set aside in a lockbox $6-7 million to be invested in the multi-purpose path?

"The W. 73rd access point is the source of all the cost increase," says bike advocate and local attorney, Kevin Cronin. "The decision has nothing to do with cycling/pedestrians, access and safety. The City needs to make its plans available and discuss the modifications and the rationale."

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