“Does Louisville Need More Highways?” is so relevant to Cleveland that you could easily swap what’s happening here in to that headline. We too are suffering from another short-sighted decision to spend billions on a highway that was built on the premise that it would bring more business to the city and unclog the roads—two myths the Times article challenges.
The Cleveland Innerbelt and the $1.5 billion Innerbelt bridges may as well be called the suburban thruway. It will move cars through the city, but it does nothing for the rising tide of "educated 20-somethings and empty nesters” who want to live downtown. Cleveland and Louisville are building not one, but two side-by-side bridges that bisect rather than strengthen the heart of the city. How does Cleveland and its fastest growing neighborhood— downtown—benefit from this?
Ideas were discussed at the community level on how to improve the spot where the Innerbelt cuts through the city, including building a cap or land bridge like Columbus built over its I-670 highway where it comes through the city. That helped spur the incredibly vibrant, mixed-use infill development happening in the Short North. Imagine if Cleveland got the resources they are getting in Columbus these days to build something transformative out of a highway project. Imagine a cap— because that’s all we can do now. The Innerbelt was our once in a generation infrastructure investment for the city, and we blew it, Cleveland.
We have a chance to redeem ourselves in the West Shoreway project. But, the plan to remake West Shoreway as a boulevard that connects to the lake front is slipping out of reach. We are missing a chance to remake a post-war highway that cuts off people from the waterfront they can see but not touch. Instead, we’re letting ODOT dictate the rules on how to remove it. It’s a lesson in how highways don’t build cities, people who want to live in them do, writes Times art critic Michael Kimmelman. He may as well be writing about Cleveland when he asks why Louisville built a great new waterfront park at the Ohio River then proceeded to cut off access with a highway the locals call “spaghetti junction.”
Why do we keep doing this to ourselves, and when do we stop?