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This Week 2.27.15

Marc Lefkowitz  |  02/27/15 @ 11:00am

  • Chuck Marohn is a licensed engineer in Minnesota and he also writes the blog Strong Towns. This week, he discusses what happened when America turned away from streets that "build wealth" in favor of fast roads. Now that his state DOT is facing fiscal insolvency, he’s trying to make sense of why his town of Brainerd wants to spend money widening its main street, which is mostly devoid of traffic and already quite wide. “The only thing worse than having congestion is not having congestion,” he concludes.
  • One and a half of the three most powerful positions in Northeast Ohio in terms of streets that build wealth and promote safety, are vacant at the moment. First, Cleveland is looking for a new Commissioner of Streets. After the city’s snow plow issues, Commissioner Rob Mavec was demoted to just handling traffic engineering. He will still decide how the city’s complete streets ordinance gets implemented. But the new Streets commissioner will have a budget and decision making authority, too. The right choice of candidate could bring a more inclusive vision for the construction and repair of streets that promote all modes of travel. At the same time, newly elected Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish is seeking a new Director of Public Works. The county engineer oversees an annual budget of $20 million on road and bridge construction (2012 figures, down from $32 million in 2010). With County Public Works co-authoring the 2015 Complete Streets Toolkit and with the suburbs taking a strong interest, it is an opportunity to select a candidate who has worked on complete streets projects.
  • The future of transit in Cleveland was the topic of popular Cleveland Public Radio show Sound of Ideas this week. When asked to consider the future, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority CEO Joe Calabrese repeated calls (for an estimated $300 million that RTA needs) to replace its aging train cars. Callers asked about cold-related service interruptions, and about 39 different bus routes affected by the closing of Ontario Avenue through Public Square starting this month. Calabrese urged patience. GCBL Tweeted in a comment on ambitious plans that have emerged recently for a bus-only lane on W. 25th Street. “It’s a good idea,” responded Calabrese who prefers a wait and see approach to a leadership role as many would expect for a bus-rapid transit “lite” project. Transit advocates responded that the situation RTA faces comes down to “Ohio’s pitiful job” of funding (Amanda Woodrum at Policy Matters Ohio). Ohioans for Transportation Choice’s Akshai Singh adds that “transit allows for expanded development opportunities without added congestion (see: Euclid Corridor downtown and Uptown), but Ohio's woeful state transit funding of less than $1/per Ohioan, based on unfair constitutional prohibition against funding transit, disproportionately impacts urban growth opportunities and mobility for people of color (who are disproportionately concentrated in urban NEO). All Aboard Ohio Tweeted “What is Cleveland’s capital plan to modernize infrastructure, replace train cars to resolve near-daily disruptions on @GCRTA #rail system?”
  • Habitat for Humanity reports how it stopped building new Cleveland homes in 2013 and shifted its strategy to “clustering redevelopment” of existing homes in three target areas of Fairfax, Slavic Village and Lower Kinsman. The group has rehabbed 19 homes in an effort to stabilize the neighborhoods, a move they say is “paying off.”
  • In 2007, Cuyahoga County owned a vast, priceless collection of buildings in Cleveland’s 100% corner of E. 9th and Euclid, and was on the verge of sending it to the wrecking ball. An articulate, Promethean battle to save a Tiffany glass-domed rotunda and an office tower designed by Bauhaus legend Marcel Breuer was capped this week when local grocer Heinen’s opened a store to serve the 12,000 residents downtown (that number is expected to grow to 25,000 by the end of the decade). It caps the redevelopment of the Breuer Tower in 2014 into a boutique hotel and high end apartments.

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