A handful of U.S. cities have torn down or busted through the '60s-era highway walls that separate their neighborhoods from adjacent waterways. Despite critics' fears that such people-friendly projects will cause calamitous traffic delays, they often reap major economic, social and environmental benefits while adding only a few minutes to the average commute.
Cleveland's version of such a wall is the West Shoreway -- a homely, 2.5-mile stretch of concrete that is designed to move cars in and out of the city, but blocks residents' access to Lake Erie. Until recently, it appeared likely that Cleveland would find a way to bust through this wall. The long-planned West Shoreway project would "transform a 2.5 mile freeway into a scenic, tree-lined boulevard," according to a description
on the Ohio Department of Transportation website.
Yet a series of cost overruns, the state's budget crunch and a philosophical shift at ODOT have thrown the very future of the project into question. State officials gave low scores to the city's recent request for additional funding, arguing that reducing the speed limit from 50 to 35 miles per hour would downgrade a functional roadway. Cleveland officials responded by accusing ODOT of trying to kill the project, which has been in the works for more than a decade.
As a December 15th meeting, where funding decisions will occur, looms ahead, cycling advocates, neighborhood residents and public officials are mounting a frontal assault on ODOT to shore up their commitment to the project.
"It's not true that we can't slow cars down -- the George Washington Parkway in D.C. is a major commuter road with bike lanes and crosswalks, and it works well," says Kevin Cronin, a board member of Cleveland Bikes
, a nonprofit group rallying to preserve the bike-friendly project. "We need to make sure that this project moves forward, and that it includes bike and pedestrian lanes."
In an effort to get the project back on track, city officials and neighborhood advocates will host a public meeting with ODOT officials on Thursday, December 1st at 6 p.m. at Franklin Circle Church, 1688 Fulton Avenue in Ohio City.
Source: Kevin Cronin
Writer: Lee Chilcote