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Cleveland to pursue Complete and Green Streets legislation together

Marc Lefkowitz  |  04/15/11 @ 2:00pm

The city of Cleveland is pursuing legislation that will tie together Complete with Green Streets, placing them ? assuming passage by City Council ? in the rarefied company of Seattle and North St. Paul as cities ensuring certain road projects are both accessible for walking and biking and reducing stormwater runoff among other environmental benefits.

Cleveland Chief of Sustainability Andrew Watterson and Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman briefed the SC2019 Transportation group yesterday on the ins-and-outs of the legislation, which is in draft form. Cimperman hopes the legislation will clear by Council's June 6 recess. Because Complete Streets is an integral part of the mobility prong of the new Healthy Cleveland initiative, Cimperman is confident he can marshal enough votes to pass Complete, but also Green Streets, which has been in the works at City Hall for some time. Members of the 2019 group wondered why the two need to be paired, and expressed concern that a threshold on cost, while common and acceptable to the group, could be used by project sponsors to disqualify aspects of one or the other or both.

It's a great opportunity to link the two so that access (bike routes, sharrows, crosswalks) and natural stormwater features are integrated at the outset of project design, Watterson answered. Green streets are expected to get a lot more momentum, he said, as the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District prepares to spend $42 million from a recent consent decree on green infrastructure. The Sewer District is just starting to plan where to remove stormwater from its worst CSOs by financing pilot projects, including green streets like tree lawns planted to double as stormwater basins (specially designed bioswales where trees, plants and soils filter and slow rain) or cisterns that hold and slowly filter water into the ground in the city and region, Watterson added.

Seattle and N. St. Paul likely would become models for a Cleveland policy that will direct how and where the city will apply Complete and Green streets, he added. Seattle has an incentive program where developers earned density bonuses in exchange for funding maintenance of the green street/bioswale.

Policy will be hammered out in time for a 90- or 120-day grace period from the passage of a City Council ordinance in June. Some of the exceptions to the policy under consideration include a cost cap (20% was the number floated), streets in the city's Bikeway Plan only, severe topography and where speed limit is 25 mph.

The 2019 group's feedback included providing additional clarification that sharrows and "share the road" signage would not be an exception on 25 mph streets, and on exceptions for streets that vary in speeds including 25 mph through a central business district. The group also clarified that by using the Bikeway Plan, the legislation will include neighborhood connector streets that also appear in the plan. (To see a complete list of proposed exceptions, click here for the city's presentation on Complete and Green streets)

Aren't bioswales more expensive than painting sharrows, and how would the city reconcile the conflict? The group wondered.

"I would recommend doing both," Watterson said, then added, "If it's part of the Bikeway Plan or a connector to a commercial district, that would dictate (Complete Streets as a priority). Or if it's where the Sewer District has targeted areas where it wants to separate sewers, that could be where we spend more on (green infrastructure)."

If it's not appropriate for a bioswale, would the policies be stated in a way so a project cannot eliminate Complete Streets as well?

Yes, Watterson assured the group, writing policy to achieve that goal is fairly standard practice.

Even if Council passes legislation this summer, the $4 million in road resurfacing and rebuilding projects in the pipeline for this year will not be impacted. How can the 2019 group help the city set some immediate goals to improve the conditions on existing roads, perhaps along the BikeWay?

The city still has $70,000 in its lane striping and bike rack budget this year. Cleveland City Planner Marty Cader suggested some of that could be used to paint sharrows, perhaps marking the downtown route of the Cleveland BikeWay, or connecting the Lorain-Carnegie bike way with the downtown bike station and the bike route plans for the Gateway District.

The 2019 group also wanted to see a commitment from the city to train staff on prioritizing green and complete streets.

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