getting where we want to be

EcoCity transportation program manager Ryan McKenzie provides news and commentary on what's happening to improve transportation choices in Northeast Ohio and at state & national levels. Get updates on road policies, transit, bicycling, walking, freight, and other transport-related topics, all viewed from EcoCity's sustainability perspective.

Regional review for mega-development proposals?
Attendees at last night's Smart Growth Coalition meeting learned about a $1 billion, 970 acre development proposal in northern Lorain County.

British-based Trans European Securities LLP wants to create a resort destination with a world-class golf course, ski slopes, an equestrian center and a year-round aquatic center with a retractable roof, plus 750,000 square feet of mixed-use retail, a 50,000-square-foot conference center, approximately 5 million square feet of office and commercial facilities.

The schematics supplied by the company also show plans to build housing for 5,000 families, as well as construct its own schools and churches, and provide its own emergency services.If it comes to pass, a project of this scale could warp the entire region's growth and travel patterns (though this is only a fraction of the size, think of what Walt Disney World did to transportation and development demand in a swampy rural area of central Florida).

But since there's no forum for review of regional-scale development propsals, key decisions about the region's development would in this case be made only by a handful of Lorain county and township officials.

EcoCity thinks NOACA should explore ways of subjecting proposals of such massive scope to a truly regional review process.

Cleaner air for truck stops
The region is bracing for new federal clean air standards that will put us in non-attainment for ozone and fine particulate pollution. Stationary sources of pollutants, such as factories and power plants, have previously been encouraged to clean up, forcing policymakers to look more seriously at "mobile source" emissions -- cars and trucks.

One of the more creative initiatives mentioned at a recent NOACA meeting would address the problem of truck stop air quality. Northeast Ohio hosts several enormous rest areas for freight trucking, where diesel engines are typically left on idle while drivers sleep -- providing needed heating or cooling, and power for small electrical appliances. IdleAire is marketing a module that can be attached to the truck's window to provide "access to basic TV, phone and Internet as well as heat, air conditioning, and 110 VAC power." Drivers using this equipment turn off their engines, and the pollution and noise associated with them.

Euclid Ave bike lanes given new life
Several City of Cleveland committees last week affirmed the importance of bicycle lanes in the $200 million Euclid Corridor Transportation Project (ECTP), leading to the halting of City approvals until they're put back in. Citizen appointees on both the Design Review committee and the Cleveland Planning Commission spoke up to ensure that bike facilities are done right.

We applaud Planning Commission member and Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman, who led opposition to approval of the existing plan. Thanks also go to Chief of Staff Chris Ronayne, whose letter affirmed the City's understanding that the ECTP "will include bike lanes that are stamped, striped, and signed from the campus of Case to Cleveland State Universities."

The Planning Commission voted to table further consideration of approvals for the ECTP, directing staff from the City and RTA to meet with ODOT within the next two weeks to find a design solution.

$$ for planning more livable communities
We commend NOACA for announcing a new $1 million Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative (TLCI) to promote innovative transportation project plans. NOACA routinely supplies capital funding for construction, but this is the first time that the agency will make grants available for planning studies.

The TLCI has three parts: planning grants of up to $75,000, neighborhood planning assistance from NOACA staff, and small scale technical traffic studies from NOACA staff.
EcoCity congratulates NOACA for their emphasis on "sustainable development, economic development and alternatives to the single-occupant vehicle." The program also promotes "redevelopment of the region's urban core communities" and will "increase transportation options for all residents".

So projects aiming to improve local walking, bicycling and transit conditions are wanted, and communities who have typically been least able to afford planning for livable communities will get priority.

But the program will only be as strong as the quality of its applications, so please encourage your municipality or agency to submit one -- even help them to draft the proposal if needed.
Deadlines for this year's round of funding are only weeks away, and two workshops are scheduled for next week to provide detailed information. For more information, click here.

Euclid Ave bike lanes appear doomed
Despite the hopeful wording of Free Times editor Michael Gill in his update A Shoulder to Cry On, it seems that action by the Cleveland Planning Commission on January 21 will be required to save the bicycle lanes on Euclid Avenue.

Gill reports Cleveland planning director Chris Ronayne requesting that RTA add the bike lane pavement markings and signage back into its 90% drawings that the Commission will review next Friday. Showing those markings will simply make ODOT play the bad guy when it is forced to reject those changes for the same reasons it rejected RTA's 60% drawings in 2004 -- they still don't meet federal design standards for bike lanes.

RTA has known since July 2004 how to fix the problem, when its consultant proposed two solutions and said "we do not believe this will be a significant cost increase".

Despite earlier promises of bicycle lanes to the Federal Transit Administration, RTA decided not to have the consultant do the re-design work, and has opted, instead, to ask for City approval of a "same as it has always been" plan, knowing that ODOT cannot approve the proposed design.

What a shame -- including safely designed bike lanes (like dozens of our competitor cities around the country) could be done without acquiring any additional right of way. The Midtown CDC reportedly WANTS the bike lanes -- sees them as a competitive advantage to help advance its development plans. And ODOT actually endorses bike lanes for this project -- wants to see them.
Instead, barring action by the Planning Commission, the Euclid Corridor will have a paved shoulder with some ineffectual "bike route" signs, and routine motorist-cyclist conflicts at 18 intersections. RTA will continue to call this half-measure a "bike facility".

No bike lane pavement markings, no clear legal status for cyclists on the shoulder, still no urban bike lanes anywhere in the state of Ohio. With $200 million dollars and a change to completely tear-out and remake the entire streetscape, Greater Cleveland still can't get the design right and compete as a livable community? What a blown opportunity...

Thinking BIG for a new Innerbelt bridge
When the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission blog recently highlighted an article on the "Third golden age of bridge building" by Wired magazine, its editors had a specific local application in mind. CPC director Paul Alsenas has promoted study of an entirely new span to replace the aging Innerbelt bridge during ODOT's massive Innerbelt reconstruction study.
In December, the County published a slideshow promoting an "iconic Innerbelt bridge design" , citing benefits to the region's image, downtown traffic flow, and downtown redevelopment.

Ken Prendergast of the Ohio Corridors Campaign suggests that if the bridge alignment were changed "the entire area of land opened up for redevelopment... is roughly three times the size of the Gateway Complex. That's 4 to 6 million square feet with a conservative land value of $150 million." Prendergast suggests that revenue from land leases could be used to offset the addtitional costs of new bridge construction and associated land development.
For a PDF with maps and details, click here.

Don't think great bridge design can happen in Ohio? Look no farther than Toledo, where the I-280 Maumee River Crossing Main Span is under construction. The $220 million Cable Stayed "Signature Bridge" over the Maumee River is the largest single project in ODOT history.
Whatever happens with the Innerbelt bridge, EcoCity urges ODOT to add a walk/bike path connecting Tremont and points south directly with Jacobs Field.

Euclid Corridor bike lanes in jeopardy again?
Insiders at Cleveland City Hall tell us that the promised bike lanes for Euclid Avenue between Case and CSU are in jeopardy again. Details are sketchy, but it seems that ODOT says (per national standards) the bike lanes should be striped all the way to crosswalks at each intersection unless there isn't enough right-of-way available -- requiring no more than an additional two feet of width. The current plans show the bike lane stripes ending whenever a left-turn-only lane appears preceeding an intersection.

Is enough width available to widen the road and allow full bike lanes? EcoCity has heard (but hasn't confirmed) that RTA's plans show 11 foot sidewalks throughout the Midtown corridor. We support a more pedestrian-friendly environment along Euclid Ave, but we don't think walkers would be harmed in Midtown if 1-2 feet were borrowed from that generous width in short stretches near intersections to make the bike lanes fit.

Will this $200 million remake of Euclid Avenue accommodate all modes of transportation, as required by federal policy? Will Cleveland finally join dozens of competitor cities from Philadelphia to Seattle in adding this quality-of-life improvement to its streets?

Rail-trail vs commuter rail?
The Plain Dealer reports that representatives from five counties are studying the development of the Western Reserve Heritage Trail and Greenway, a 72-mile link along mostly-abandoned railroad lines between Cleveland and Youngstown.

Commuter rail advocates note that this Randall Secondary rail line has been identified as feasible for future commuter rail service between Downtown Cleveland and Aurora, and are concerned about a permanent loss of the corridor to trail conversion.
EcoCity strongly supports the expansion of greenway trail networks in our region, and we note that this development would bring our region much closer to Pittsburgh and a continuous trail connection to Washington D.C.

We also think it's important to preserve potential commuter rail corridors, and we therefore urge planners to investigate the feasibility of a Rails-With-Trails development strategy-- a win-win approach that would allow the benefits of both uses in this unique corridor.

Ferry service to Canada vs. lakefront transformation?
The Port Authority continues to prepare for ferry service between Cleveland and Canada. By spring 2006, Royal Wagenborg of the Netherlands will operate twice-a-day service to Port Stanley for at least 10 months per year, carrying 25,000 freight trucks, up to 42,000 cars and 250,000 passengers. The 70 mile crossing will take about 3.5 hours. Port officials call the ferry "a logical extension of I-71 and I-77 north to Canada and the QEW" (Ontario's east-west highway) for truck traffic.

Water transport is an excellent alternative to congested highways for truck traffic, and deserves close study. But we note that Dock 28, north of the Cleveland Browns stadium, is where the Port aims to build a ferry terminal.

We wonder how the visitor experience at North Coast Harbor and its key museum attractions will be changed by twice-a-day surges of 40+ freight trucks and hundreds of cars, especially if those trucks idle on the dock for hours beforehand.

We also wonder how the use of Dock 28 for ferry service meshes with the City's desire to create a mixed-use development in that area as part of its comprehensive Lakefront Plan.

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