Pedestrian Bridge Funding Hits Snag and Spurs Frustrations

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One potential bridge design, the "cable-stayed" concept - ROSALES + PARTNERS, PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF
  • Rosales + Partners, Parsons Brinckerhoff
  • One potential bridge design, the "cable-stayed" concept
The downtown booster cry du jour — the idea that you can get anything done around this city if you just cite the 2016 Republican National Convention — is already crumbling. The pedestrian bridge, designs of which are being touted publicly this week, is facing a potential funding hiccup over at Cleveland City Hall. Based on the way some politicians are talking, the project and its hopeful RNC deadline are totally up in the air right now. The problem? Money, duh.

Some have pointed to the new de facto ban on red-light traffic cameras, which passed at the polls last week. That cuts at least $6 million annually from the city’s budget — a tough hit. Regardless of rationale, Cleveland City Council hasn’t yet introduced legislation to issue bonds for its $10 million contribution to the pedestrian bridge. The county is chipping in another $10 million (legislation for which is already on the table and ideally due for passage by the first week of December). The state is tossing another $5 million toward the project. (The feds, by the way, rejected a plan to fund this project on three separate occasions.)

But even this piecemeal funding plan, announced earlier this summer, isn’t a sure thing. We’re in a place now where bridge designs are floating around for the public to review even as funding isn’t yet 100-percent worked out. Classic #thisiscle.

“I know that I’m not the only one that’s very uneasy about this,” County Councilman Dale Miller said yesterday. He chairs the county’s Finance and Budgeting Committee, which tackled this question amid a three-hour snore session on Monday. "If we’re gonna get the pedestrian bridge built prior to the Republican National Convention, we've got to sell the bonds for this project with this issue in the first week of December."

The county has shown a good-faith effort, county leaders said, of course, citing design funds already paid out and pending legislation already being discussed. The ciiiiity, county leaders said with annoyance, well, it’s not really clear what the city is willing to commit. Bond issuance legislation needs to be approved in earnest by the first week of December to get this thing rolling and completed by the RNC dates — which is the whole reason we're even discussing this bridge right now. City Council’s respective legislation is expected to be introduced for the first time on Dec. 8.

County Councilman Jack Schron added that if Cleveland really does get cold feet, he feels the county shouldn’t move forward. “Without [provisional language] in there, then we’re out there scrambling...to find the other half of the funds.” The county resolution will come up for further talk next week.

In the meantime — almost absurdly, given this news — county and city leaders will be taking public comment on the three potential bridge designs during a meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 13 at county HQ.


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