Peanut Butter Knife

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

ODOT: Trust Us

Michael Gill has an excellent piece in this week's Cleveland Free Times concerning the Cleveland Inner Belt reconstruction project. Few people would argue with the need to reconstruct this important stretch of highway, which serves as the epicenter of travel in and out of downtown Cleveland from all directions (except the soon to be downgraded West Shoreway). Between Dead Man's Curve, a crumbling bridge and some of the most treacherous ramps in the country, the Inner Belt is long overdue for a facelift. So considering the importance of this project, you'd have expected ODOT to have done their homework. Ummmm, no. It turns out that when ODOT builds a road, they aren't in the habit of doing an economic impact study. Ever. And after 3 years of this project, they still haven't completed one:

The most telling sentence of the morning was spoken as an aside, a footnote to an answer about why the agency hasn’t yet finished an economic development study that was promised six weeks ago. On the way to explaining, Proctor said simply, “This is the first and only economic development study ever done by ODOT. We don’t have a deep history of studying economic development” impacts of highway projects.

Perhaps because such a study will confirm what many area businesses have been trying to tell ODOT since 2003. Eliminating exits at Carnegie and Prospect is going to have a profound negative effect on those businesses and institutions that have grown up around those interchanges over the last 50 years.

OK, ODOT, you build roads, maybe the economic impact will be offset by the benefits to traffic flow and safety. So when you tell us that eliminating these interchanges and consolidating them at Chester Ave. will make the road safer to travel on AND won't cause gridlock when there are multiple events downtown, certainly you have done some traffic studies to back up these assertions? Right?

“The community has this gut feeling that this just isn’t going to work,” Haviland said. “And there’s been this absence of key information, like traffic modeling..."

Oh. So just how much planning actually goes into a $900 million traffic project?


  • At 4:05 PM, Anonymous em dash said…

    Oh. So just how much planning actually goes into a $900 million traffic project?

    Evidentally, not the right kind of planning if ODOT is simply focused on traffic flow.

    Has St. Vincent Charity, CMHA, CSU, or the Juvenile Court publicly weighed in on the proposed exit closures since they all stand to be negatively affected?

    I'd also be interested in knowing whether RTA is looking at a comcommitant plan to ODOT's for expanding cross-county service into downtown or creating circulator loops to promote access points on the businesses located on the streets that could potentially lose traffic?

  • At 4:56 PM, Blogger 54cermak said…

    Good questions all. I was reading the minutes from the last public hearing on 11/17/05 and it seems the Post Office has gone on record to oppose eliminating the Broadway exit and St Vincent's has some real concerns over ambulance routing that ODOT seemed to shrug off.

  • At 5:59 PM, Anonymous em dash said…

    Thanks. Exactly as I suspected.

    So why is ODOT hell-bent on ramming this project down the public's throats?

    So, here's a crazy question—how is the Interbelt project being financed? With the secrecy, lack of publicly-released planning, and disregard for public concerns, I'd bet dollars to donuts there may be a privatization issue or sketchy bond financing deal here.

  • At 10:27 PM, Blogger 54cermak said…

    I'm seeing alot of conflicting numbers on the funding right now. A Federal DOT press release says that the Feds are going to fund 80%, but only around $100 million was allocated in the recent transportation bill (HR3). An ODOT document lists a contribution (by ODOT) of $200 million out of $1 billion, which would be in line with Mineta's 80% figure. I have to look into this some more.


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