Cuyahoga County earmarks funds for road repairs in high-poverty neighborhoods

Cuyahoga County Council approved a contribution of $7.5 million across six road repair projects in 2021.Courtesy of City of ClevelandCuyahoga County Council approved a contribution of $7.5 million across six road repair projects in 2021.

Motorists and cyclists won't have to dodge quite as many potholes in the next two years because Cuyahoga County plans to use funds it didn't spend during the 2020 road resurfacing season on 12 additional resurfacing projects.

Cuyahoga County Council at its Tuesday, Jan. 12 meeting approved a contribution of $7.5 million across six road repair projects in 2021 and $5.2 million across five projects in 2022.

Projects were selected based on a variety of factors, with poverty level and economic health being strong factors. A community’s economic health is a census statistic that measures a community’s percent of households in poverty and average annual household income.

Roads in high-poverty neighborhoods that have been rated in “very poor” condition by the county were given higher priority.

“There is huge need throughout the county for improved roads,” said county executive Armond Budish in a statement. “Generally, cities are responsible for road improvements. But we took a look at the communities facing higher levels of poverty and lower economic health and wanted to specifically do improvements in these areas to emphasize our continued dedication to investing in communities with a high need for support.”

The roads that will be resurfaced are county-designated routes and include sections of Lee Boulevard in East Cleveland; Wolf Road in Bay Village; Lakeshore Boulevard in Euclid; Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights; Union Road in Bedford; Ivanhoe Road in Cleveland and East Cleveland; Dunham Road in Maple Heights; Superior Road in East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights; Garfield Boulevard in Garfield Heights; Green Road in Cleveland; and West Ridgewood Drive in Parma.

The county's contribution will be deducted from the overall cost of these road projects, which is estimated to cost between $17 million and $21 million. The windfall came about for several reasons, says county planning and program administrator Nichole English.

“Contractors were getting much more aggressive in their bidding," she says, “and (Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency) NOACA was able to get more bang for their road resurfacing buck."

While NOACA is on the hook for 80% of the cost for these projects, it is more commonplace that the agency has available funds to cover only 50% of a project, English explains. Cuyahoga County will split the remaining balance with the city where the resurfacing takes place.

“Based on what NOACA gave there was a surplus,” English says. “So, we just put more money into that split [with the cities].”

Broken curbs will also be fixed and any crosswalk curbs that are not ADA-compliant will be replaced by the county. Improvements such as road diets—a re-striping practice that reduces the number of travel lanes so bike lanes can be added—would be considered for this pot of funds, English adds.

In general, costs for road resurfacing have been trending up, says English, who estimates resurfacing costs about $500,000 per lane mile, or $1 million per mile for a two-lane road. Cost is variable depending on the price of oil and how contractors are bidding, she says.

The benefits will be felt by cash-strapped cities.

“It's good for residents and businesses,” she says. “If the county didn't do this, the cities would have to. Now they can spend that money on other roads.”

Marc Lefkowitz
Marc Lefkowitz

About the Author: Marc Lefkowitz

Marc Lefkowitz is a sustainability consultant with more than 15 years of experience writing, speaking and advocating for a more sustainable Northeast Ohio. He served as Director of the GreenCityBlueLake Institute and editor of its well-known blog at He has a B.A. in English from Ohio State University and an M.A. in urban planning from Cleveland State University. He is a regular bike commuter and transit rider. Photo: Liz Cooper.