Why not support downtown housing to reduce congestion?

The following letter was written February 12, 2004 by EcoCity Cleveland executive director David Beach to Craig Hebebrand, ODOT District 12 and head of the Cleveland Innerbelt project. EcoCity Cleveland was seeking to articulate its position on issues relating to the Innerbelt and larger, smart growth concerns.

Dear Craig:

I would like to take this opportunity to clarify my concerns about the Cleveland Innerbelt project. EcoCity Cleveland often seeks to communicate an alternative view of transportation, and I fear that during the Scoping Committee meetings our message is often misunderstood.

First, let me say that I have appreciated ODOT's willingness to engage the public in the Innerbelt planning process. And I understand the need to move forward expeditiously to the next phases of the projectphases in which studies can be done to answer many of the questions and concerns that people have about the project. EcoCity Cleveland looks forward to participating in the next phases. We want to help plan a great project for the community.

At this point, however, I would like to re-emphasize several concerns that we have tried to explain in the Scoping Committee meetings. These concerns relate to demand-side management, stormwater management, and facilities for non-motorized traffic on the Central Viaduct Bridge.

Demand-side management by promoting downtown housing

One of our fundamental beliefs is that transportation is really a land-use issue. Good land-use planning can reduce the demand for transportation by locating destinations in close proximity. And reducing the demand for transportation should be a top priority. Transportation is costly economically and environmentally. The less transportation we consume to have access to what we need, the better.

We can help accomplish this by making sure that transportation investments support smart development. In the case of the Innerbelt project, this can mean supporting downtown housing strategies. The goal should be to provide more opportunities for people to live close to downtown jobs. Housing studies have shown that a large percentage of downtown residents work there and walk to work. This translates to fewer commuters at peak hours. Thus, one of the best ways - and the most sustainable way - to reduce traffic congestion is to promote downtown housing.

This also would be one of the best investments for the long-term health of the city. Transportation funds could support redevelopment in many creative ways, such as land assembly, city street improvements, and the building of parking structures. The concept would be to view these investments as transportation control measures (TCM) that help meet the region's transportation goals. Air quality concerns will make such strategies even more important in the coming years, as our region will have a hard time meeting the new 8-hour ozone standards.

In sum, the Innerbelt project offers a great opportunity to evaluate the potential for facilitating new development in the city while reducing peak-hour congestion on the highway system. Indeed, it would be irresponsible not to study the potential for demand reduction as part of this major project.


In recent years, people in Greater Cleveland have become aware that stormwater pollution is now the biggest threat to water quality. The concerns have grown as more people have realized the potential for greater public access to the lakefront and the Cuyahoga River.

Since a major contributor to the stormwater problem is runoff from transportation facilities, it is essential for the Innerbelt project to address this issue. Consequently, we strongly endorse the February 9 letter of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, which calls for comprehensive stormwater management to be an integral part of the Innerbelt project.

The Central Viaduct Bridge as a complete street

We request that when improving the Central Viaduct Bridge, ODOT make it a "complete street" by including facilities that accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized traffic. Providing this non-motorized connection will create new transportation choices that are affordable, nonpolluting, and conducive for public health by providing physical activity. This facility will safely accommodate existing pedestrian traffic on the bridge between Tremont and downtown. It will also link downtown destinations directly to the planned Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, a major regional economic development initiative and non-motorized transportation corridor.

Compared to this Central Viaduct connection, all existing non-motorized transportation options between these points impose a large penalty in travel time, distance, and elevation change.

We note that the Federal transportation law also encourages, and perhaps requires, non-motorized travel to be accommodated in Federal-aid projects.

EcoCity Cleveland endorses the Burgess & Niple design for a two-way pedestrian/bicycle path on the north side of the Central Viaduct, and we urge ODOT to include it within the scope of work for the Cleveland Innerbelt project.

I hope this is helpful in clarifying our concerns. I look forward to discussing these issues with you and working to create a wonderful transportation/land-use solution for Cleveland.


David Beach
Executive Director

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EcoCity Cleveland
3500 Lorain Avenue, Suite 301, Cleveland OH 44113
Cuyahoga Bioregion
(216) 961-5020
Copyright 2002-2003

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The goal should be to provide more opportunities for people to live close to downtown jobs. Housing studies have shown that a large percentage of downtown residents work there and walk to work. This translates to fewer commuters at peak hours.

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