A BRIDGE PLAN TOO FAR

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One in four Cleveland households will see no benefit from the proposed new Innerbelt bridge because they don’t have cars. And, as research from some transportation advocates has found, the situation is even worse in the neighborhoods on either side of the proposed span.

On the Tremont side, according to NEO CANDO (a census database maintained by Case Western Reserve University), nearly 30 percent of households don’t have cars, as Green City Blue Lake’s Brad Chase discovered. And on the other side — the Central neighborhood, one of Cleveland’s poorest — nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of households lack access to a car, and therefore will see no benefit from the half-billion dollar bridge for which ODOT currently seeks approval.

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Advocates are hoping to get equitable treatment for those residents as the state transportation agency presents its proposals to NOACA, the regional planning agency which must approve ODOT’s plans. What they want is a lane for pedestrians and cyclists alongside the vehicular lanes, creating a safe, straight line that brings Tremont much closer to downtown.

They’ve got a rendering (right) of what such a lane might look like, thanks to the Cleveland Urban Design Cooperative. And thanks to ODOT, they’ve got a price tag. By ODOT’s own estimate of $20 million, it represents approximately four percent of the total project cost. Federal guidelines say the agency must consider pedestrian and bicycle access if it will be less than 20 percent of the overall cost, a standard this projection easily meets.

Activist groups Cleveland Bikes, the Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op and others hope to rally support for bike and pedestrian access at 2 p.m. Sunday, December 6, at Tremont’s Lincoln Park. They plan to ride ODOT’s recommended routes from Cleveland to downtown, which are as much as half a mile longer than the path of the proposed bridge, and to strategize about next steps.

“If you live in Tremont and want to walk downtown, or if you’re a tourist downtown and want to walk to Tremont restaurants — it’s not just a bike thing,” says Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op director Jim Sheehan.

One critical step is to get supporters to take time away from work from 10-10:30 a.m. Friday, December 11, when NOACA will hear public comments on ODOT’s proposal. The meeting is at NOACA’s offices at 1299 Superior Avenue. — Michael Gill

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