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Are the grumbellies driving the Opportunity Corridor?

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/21/13 @ 2:00pm  |  Posted in Transportation choices

The Opportunity Corridor was conceived as a relief valve for the Innerbelt. Back in 2004, ODOT sold it as a way to reduce congestion. ODOT even hired the big planning and engineering firm HNTB to build a case for the land surrounding the road.

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HNTB didn’t have any skin in the game, and so their honest appraisal of what to do with the “Forgotten Triangle” was to ask the residents what they wanted. HNTB even made a stirring recommendation in its December, 2003 Framework Study to emphasize in a master plan residential villages around the Rapid lines.

Today, the idea that Opportunity Corridor is being built to save time or reduce congestion has been given a back seat.

A new report on the 61 most traffic clogged cities in the U.S. might shed light on why. Cleveland ranks 60th. In other words, we have no congestion to complain about. Compiled by GPS company TomTom from data beamed in from commuters, the report says Cleveland roads are at 10% of their capacity. Put another way, Northeast Ohio has built 2,817 miles of roads. The total vehicle miles driven on all of the region’s roads equals 1,813,890. It means that for all of the investment in roads, cars only use them 0.1% of the time.

ODOT's formula for building or widening roads is based on “peak hour” congestion. The TomTom report found something interesting about rush hour in Cleveland. Thursdays are the worst day; all others are light in the morning rush hour. Evening rush hour is slightly more congested.

It is likely that the small uptick in congestion between morning and evening rush is perceived as much worse than it is (think about how long it feels to wait at a traffic light when you’re hungry or in a hurry to get home)?

Could this data make the case for managing traffic better rather than assuming that adding capacity is the way to relieve a relatively light rush hour? University Circle institutions could perhaps huddle and come up with a strategy to stagger their evening work hours. Or shift a few hundred back office employees to telecommuters.

Congestion in Cleveland has remained flat at 10% since 2011, the report notes. In fact, Q2 of 2013 showed a drop below 10%.

It’s easy to see why the narrative of building the Opportunity Corridor shifted away from congestion.

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