The plan to build a highway extension through the city of Cleveland turned out a large group of residents and sustainability advocates unanimously opposed to the $331 million project at this week’s ODOT public hearing on its environmental impact.
“We don’t pollute anymore,” said one resident who identified herself as a former crane operator at a Cleveland steel mill.
“If you want to have a positive impact,” said another resident, “turn it into a toll road. If you want to drive through my neighborhood at 50 miles per hour, pay a toll and we’ll take that and reinvest it.”
“Why can’t they take this money and reinvest it in all the roads between here and University Circle?” asked a third resident.
“Invest in our children, not roads,” said one man identifying himself as a Slavic Village resident. “That’s our future.”
“You don’t see anyone proposing a road like this in Shaker Heights or Beachwood,” said a young woman from the area. “They’re building parks and nice green spaces there.”
“The Greater Cleveland Partnership has been touting the pedestrian friendly design of this road, but if you look at all the cul-de-sacs, wide turning radii of the intersections and sound walls, it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of what pedestrian friendly means,” said Angie Schmitt, a transportation blogger and part of Clevelanders for Transportation Equity (CTE).
ODOT claims that intersections need to be very wide to accommodate buses, but RTA has no immediate plans to expand bus service on Opportunity Corridor.
CTE called on the city to reconsider the alternatives which include improving existing routes to University Circle from I-490. Concerns include environmental justice issues like increased truck and car traffic and related air pollution, seizing 60 homes and 20 businesses, dead ends at 10 crossing streets that will cause interruptions to bus service for veterans and public housing residents, create barriers for pedestrians, and isolate 15 more homes.
The group questions how ODOT’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) finds no air quality impacts. Also, how it ruled out the closest alternative route—Woodland Avenue. Indeed, ODOT applies convoluted logic, saying that connecting Woodland to E. 105th Street would make it “discontinuous.” But, the preferred alternative for Opportunity Corridor links Woodland to E. 105th Street. So, what gives?
"A continuous Woodland Avenue would better meet the project's purpose and need,” the DEIS reads. “Woodland Avenue is an east-west route that connects to areas within and next to the project study area. It is an important part of improving traffic flow and connections among roadways, and it also directly links neighborhoods southeast of the Central Business District, including several right next to University Circle."
Jan Ridgeway, director of a community center on Kinsman Road, called on the project leaders to respond to the concerns. “If there is equity at all when this project is implemented, we’ll have listened to the vital concerns expressed by the community.”
Policy Matters Ohio this week questioned the priority for the project, and instead offered that the $331 million could support growth of existing areas by investing the money in a number of local transit projects, including trains and buses:
“More than 25 percent of Cleveland residents either carpool to work or commute via public transit, walking or biking, and 11.5 percent of Cleveland’s commuters have no access to a vehicle. Further, the city has a commitment to sustainability, clean air, and promoting vibrancy and equity in its urban core. Given these realities, Cleveland should consider alternative transportation choices that are built around public transit and include safe routes for pedestrians and cyclists.”
The Plain Dealer reports that public comment will shape what the ultimate project will be.
A panel discussion, “Designing the Opportunity Corridor” will include CTE’s Angie Schmitt and Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Deb Janik at Cleveland Museum of Art on Wednesday, Oct. 9 at 6 p.m.
Woodland Avenue alternative in the Opportunity Corridor Draft Environmental Impact Statement.