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Cleveland: Opportunity Corridor Boulevard

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A little insider info... I can't provide more details until RTA talks to ODOT (probably next week), but Calabrese will direct staff work with ODOT on developing data for a rail-in-the-boulevard alternative. If the data shows no fatal flaws and that the project can compete with other federal funding requests nationwide, then we will have something. If that's the case, it will still be a while before we see rail in the boulevard. Given the backlog of federal funding requests, it will probably mean that RTA would seek an OC right of way designed for the future inclusion of rail. We'll see!


"Now you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy, are you Buddy? It's the free market. And you're a part of it." -- Gordon Gekko.

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Below is another way the Blue-Green lines can be rerouted to Buckeye Road to reach the Opportunity Corridor. It should be noted that ODOT is planning to replace the Rapid "tunnel" beneath the Buckeye/Woodhill/Shaker intersection with a bridge. I don't know how far along these plans are, but if it's still early in the planning stage, maybe they can hold off to instead use the funding to fill in the tunnels someday for this new Blue-Green line routing. And perhaps some or all of this investment might be counted as part of the non-federal contribution to this project?

 

shakerwoodhill-s.jpg


"Now you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy, are you Buddy? It's the free market. And you're a part of it." -- Gordon Gekko.

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Great work KJP!  It's a good sign that Calabrese was willing to meet you with what appears to be an open mind and that he's going to be allocating resources to explore this option.  It's still very early on for this project and it's important to get creative (and brilliant) ideas like this in at the beginning so that people from ODOT can't say down the line that options and studies aren't feasible!

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Here's a troubling development. Admittedly, the graphic below is only an option being considered, but the fact that this option was developed and is still under consideration is inconceivable to me. Look at how this totally unnecessary ramping and bridging system interfaces with East 55th Street. This abortion wipes out many more buildings than it should and isolates the soon-to-be rebuilt East 55th Rapid Station even moreso from its surrounding neighborhood, what little will be left of it. Memo to HNTB and ODOT -- nearly 2/3 of all transit ridership comes from pedestrians. Whoever designs this stuff sure must hate cities and transit....

 

<click on image and scroll right to view the entire thing>

 

OC-E55HNTBs.jpg

 


"Now you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy, are you Buddy? It's the free market. And you're a part of it." -- Gordon Gekko.

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While I'm not in favor KJP's proposal, I understand it.  His goals of TOD are nobler than those who proposed this project which, all along, is intended to be a freeway no matter what euphemistic, cutsie names people intend to call it... KJP's goal of TOD development is at odds w/ ODOT's and it's backers and if it evolves into a TOD "opportunity corridor", the powers that be, and their backers, mainly West Siders who want to shave a few minutes off their commute to U. Circle while avoiding "the inner city" will lose interest.  Count on it.

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For what it's worth. Ohio Revised Code 5101.05 prohibits the use of highway funds (fuel and licensing taxes) for non-highway purposes. 

 

http://onlinedocs.andersonpublishing.com/oh/lpExt.dll?f=templates&eMail=Y&fn=main-h.htm&cp=PORC/27775/27777/27795

http://onlinedocs.andersonpublishing.com/oh/lpExt.dll?f=templates&eMail=Y&fn=main-h.htm&cp=PORC/2c3ac/2c68f/2c6a6

 

This has been in effect since 1948.  Perhaps it's time to turn on the heat in having it changed?  Does anyone have any info on limits on transportation funding in other states?

 

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I just dream that this whole mess would disappear.  Why this city, with all the vexing problems of boosting it's existing inner city with high-density comercial/housing properties, TOD's and the like, is wasting time, energy and money over another stupid inner-city freeway is beyond me... and that many transit folks are supporting it...

 

... so, so Cleveland!

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No one jump off the ledge just yet.

For one thing, they always try to give a highway alternative, just like they did for the west shoreway, but the most residential option won out.

 

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In response to Guv's comment, how is it that ODOT can put money towards the West Shoreway project when it's essentially the removal of a highway in favor of a local access boulevard?

 

And on the subject of the Opportunity Corridor...It occurred to me at the Innerbelt meeting on Monday that half of what they're trying to accomplish was originally the plan in making Chester Avenue some decades ago.  This is a very wide (what, 8 lanes?) boulevard that proceeds from Downtown and an interstate directly into University Circle.  Now, the Innerbelt project is proposing to take the Chester Ave. exit ramps away... interesting.  Has anyone done any research on whether or not Chester accomplished what it planned to over its history...essentially what the OC is planning to accomplish?

 

 

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In response to Guv's comment, how is it that ODOT can put money towards the West Shoreway project when it's essentially the removal of a highway in favor of a local access boulevard?

 

And on the subject of the Opportunity Corridor...It occurred to me at the Innerbelt meeting on Monday that half of what they're trying to accomplish was originally the plan in making Chester Avenue some decades ago.  This is a very wide (what, 8 lanes?) boulevard that proceeds from Downtown and an interstate directly into University Circle.  Now, the Innerbelt project is proposing to take the Chester Ave. exit ramps away... interesting.  Has anyone done any research on whether or not Chester accomplished what it planned to over its history...essentially what the OC is planning to accomplish?

 

Some thoughts:

 

-I thought that the Chester ramps were included in the last revision to the innerbelt plan.

-While the west shoreway project will be great for the west side, the city didn't get all that they wanted. They really fought with ODOT to reduce it to 2 lanes each way.  ODOT refused and will make it 3 lanes.  That's a loss in my opinion.  I hope that the lanes are not extra wide.

-I heard that Chester's lanes are wider than the normal width. OC would have thinner lanes.

-Not that this means anything, but many (well-connected) people talk about the OC as if its going to happen.  From what I know of large capital projects, I wouldn't be so optimistic/pessimistic.  Is there something else that we don't know about?

- additional thoughts coming soon...

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Seems my celebration that RTA brass will ask staff to work with ODOT on analyzing the inclusion of rail in the Opportunity Corridor was premature. An RTA official told me on Friday that "We have had some internal conversations about the Corridor, but not yet determined the best way to position with ODOT, but I think we will soon."

 

Feel free to continue the letters, e-mails and phone calls flowing to the RTA board. To find out how to contact them, click on the link below, then click on the individual board member names. Below their bios you will find their contact info (though most e-mails go to the board Secretary Rhonda Raidl - rraidl@gcrta.org - 216-566-5187)

 

http://www.riderta.com/ar_organization-board.asp


"Now you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy, are you Buddy? It's the free market. And you're a part of it." -- Gordon Gekko.

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Regarding the image I posted earlier of the OC boulevard bridging over East 55th Street.... That concept hasn't gone over very well in the community. Another option is now being floated: to build the road UNDER East 55th Street. Also, RTA's new East 55th station would be on the east side of East 55th. If combined with a cap (complete with leasable structures ala High Street in Columbus) over the boulevard, then the station would not be cut off from its neighborhood traffic source. Hopefully, that will be considered.


"Now you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy, are you Buddy? It's the free market. And you're a part of it." -- Gordon Gekko.

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I have kind of crude understanding of this opportunity corridor area, but I feel if they are going to go ahead and make the investment in acquiring property, building new roads, and tearing things down, it might be a good idea to extend Shaker Boulevard and directly and as seamlessly as possible link it with I-490. Maybe the tracks wouldn't have to be realigned, and the boulevard would simply continue along the tracks all the way to E.55th? In addition to the 490-Shaker connection, they could still build a new avenue as you (KJP) proposed along the red line?

 

The reason why I would be in favor of a Shaker Boulevard connection to I-490 would be to improve both the west side access to university circle and east side, but also the east side access to to downtown and the west side. Might it also be possible to run the Shaker Rapid the center of I-90 out to the west side? I have seen such a combination of interstate and rail in Chicago. I realize this would all be a stretch, but with the innerbelt bridge and other things coming up, maybe it would be a good idea to examine the relationship between the potential  west shore rail line, innerbelt bridge and reconfiguration, and opportunity corridor.

 

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The plan is to have a six-lane (three in each direction) boulevard from I-490 east to Buckeye Road, where the boulevard to University Circle would then drop to four lanes. Buckeye would be four lanes from the boulevard to the intersection with East 93rd, Woodhill and Shaker, but I'm not sure if that means widening the road or eliminating on-street parking.

 

The reason for consolidating the two Rapid lines west of Buckeye Road is to reduce RTA's costs of maintaining the two aging rail rights of way, provide more visible, safer and accessible at-grade station locations, provide opportunities for transit-oriented development around those stations, make it faster and easier for rail trips between Shaker and University Circle, provide a single location for transfers between the east-side rail transit routes and the proposed NEOrail regional passenger service to/from the southeast suburbs, and thus create a major transit and development hub in what has been called "The Forgotten Triangle."

 

As for I-90, the median in that highway (between West 65th and the Warren Road area) was built for a Chicago-style rail transit line. It would have diverged from the Red Line just east of West 65th, near the Zone Recreation Center to enter the median of I-90. It's the reason why one side of I-90 is below ground level there, and the other side is above street level to ease the rail line into the median. As recently as the mid-1990s, RTA proposed a bus rapid transit route in the median of I-90.


"Now you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy, are you Buddy? It's the free market. And you're a part of it." -- Gordon Gekko.

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As for I-90, the median in that highway (between West 65th and the Warren Road area) was built for a Chicago-style rail transit line. It would have diverged from the Red Line just east of West 65th, near the Zone Recreation Center to enter the median of I-90. It's the reason why one side of I-90 is below ground level there, and the other side is above street level to ease the rail line into the median. As recently as the mid-1990s, RTA proposed a bus rapid transit route in the median of I-90.

 

A freeway median is the worst possible place to put a transit line. 

 

Unless I'm going crazy, the Red Line on the South Side of Chicago, and the Blue Line on the West Side pre-date the Interstate highway system.  This would mean that the freeways were built on either side of the L tracks, and not the other way around.  I need more research to confirm (or debunk) this, though.

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  Just curious DainDC as to why you think it is such a bad idea?  I have used the Blue line often in Chicago, and I love to see the cars sitting there in traffic as the El wizzes by.  Here in Cleveland, we have the RTA bus "park n ride" system....but the thing is, those buses sit in traffic just like the cars.  I always wondered how many more riders RTA might have if it were a rail line in the median instead of a bus route on the highway.  If you could actually park and RIDE without traffic, the highways may not be as jammed up and it may spur ridership even from the burbs.  But then again...I have no degree in urban planning or transportation.  :)

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The purpose of riding transit is not to see cars sitting in traffic, as enjoyable as that may be.

 

Placing a rail line in a median severely restricts pedestrian access to the stations.  The freeway is a major psychological (and for some, a physical) obstacle.  For example, on the Dan Ryan line, once you reach the platform, you go up a set of stairs and walk a good 1/4 mile over the freeway just to get to the street.

 

The second problem, which closely ties in with the first problem above, is that TOD around the station is severely limited, due to the vast amount of real estate consumed by the highway.  It is far more productive for the transit line to have its own right-of-way, where dense TOD can be fostered, generating more ridership.  If you place the stations in a freeway median, the line becomes nothing more than a "commuter" line, largely based on park-and-ride.  Those familiar with the RTA Red Line know this too well.  With a linear increase in walkable neighborhoods surrounding stations, there is an exponential increase in transit usage, as each new station would create a new destination for each possible point of departure, and in turn, a new point of departure with multiple destinations, instead of the A-B and B-A "commuter" operation that is better left to commuter rail. 

 

Often, increase in development at or near stations can be used to justify the capital costs of the line and stations.  If the line runs through a freeway median, you're not going to see a whole lot of increased development, and hence little increase in tax revenue to justify the investment.  In turn, ridership never reaches its full potential.

 

Thirdly, by putting a transit line along side an interstate highway, you put the two modes in direct competition with each other.  One is going to succeed, and the other will fail.  Why would anyone think it a good idea to ensure that a public investment will fail?  In a nation run by road and oil interests, it's not difficult to figure out which of these two is going to lose out.

 

 

 

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East of East 55th, it's not a freeway. It will be more like Shaker Boulevard. I don't like the idea of more pavement, but given the number of EPA Superfund sites and the lack of funding for cleaning them up for redevelopment, the road would instead provide the means for the clean up. Question is, what do you put where the abandoned, contaminated industries were? Do you build suburban-style, single-level warehouses everywhere (see the Orlando Baking Co. on Grand Ave.) or do you keep that kind of development closer to the rail freight lines and put the high-density mixed use near the boulevard with a rail transit line going down it?

 

RTA's reluctance to jump all over this is mind boggling. They are saddled with (and complain about) underperforming rail lines because of where they were built -- cheaply next to freight corridors and declining industries. Here is a chance to start to rectify that using a right of way paid for by someone else -- ODOT, and to be there at the start of building a new neighborhood that's designed around the rail transit line. Where else in Greater Cleveland can RTA do this so inexpensively, both in terms of capital and operating costs?


"Now you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy, are you Buddy? It's the free market. And you're a part of it." -- Gordon Gekko.

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I gotta say....three lanes plus a median seems..  Pretty intimidating.  I'm really starting to sour on the idea as long as TPTB give the rail inclusion a cold shoulder.  As I say, there is opportunity there, but not much if they're just going to plow another Chester Avenue through.

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KJP......does anybody at RTA know about any of these threads?  Do they actually read what the RIDERSHIP thinks?  Between this thread, west side transit, and what other states do.....do they have ANY clue?  I know you seem to have some sort of working relationship with those people, do they ever mention some of the ideas written....do you ever encourage them to check out what the PEOPLE think?  Some of the ideas I have read on these threads seem like no brainers!  Keep up the good ideas, the informative threads...and the hope that maybe some of this will sink in to the ones in charge!  Good job everyone!

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Yes, a few folks at RTA read them. But most them are already thinking about how to use transit to rebuild the city. Those that don't read this forum tend to come from the camp that transit is a social safety net and can't imagine it being anything else. They are the ones who need greater exposure to new ideas, experiences in other cities (even those that aren't growing), etc. But I still think too many will say:

 

"Yeah, but those other cities are growing..." (Not all of them, like St. Louis, Pittsburgh, or many cities in Europe)

 

"Yeah, but we have a big urban sprawl problem here..." (Like other cities don't? And what better way to refocus development back to the urban core and boost ridership?)

 

"Yeah, but we don't have a traffic problem in Cleveland...." (Then why has ODOT and local governments spent hundreds of millions of dollars on wider highways like I-90, I-271, I-71, the new Jennings Freeway to relieve I-77, and numerous thoroughfares in the past 15 years, and plans to spend more than $1.2 billlion in the next 10 years for a wider Inner Belt, I-77 and many more roads?"

 

"Yeah, but we Clevelanders love our cars..." (Of course, when all levels of government spend more than $3 billion per year on roads in Northeast Ohio while investing less than $250 million per year on transit. That doesn't include the $27 billion per year we as individuals spend to own, operate, insure and maintain our cars in Northeast Ohio, making our cars a close second to housing as the biggest costs we must endure. Why? Because we don't have much of a choice for most of our urban trips.)

 

"Yeah but..."

 

The longer we dodge the issue, the farther behind we're going to be in offering Greater Cleveland as an economically competitive region. People may be hesitant to change, but they don't have a choice but to change. While other regions move ahead, we aren't just standing still in relation to them. Instead, we're going backwards.


"Now you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy, are you Buddy? It's the free market. And you're a part of it." -- Gordon Gekko.

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As for the Chicago Blue and Red lines.....

They existed before the freeways were put in, but not that far away from the city.  When the Ryan and the Kennedy freeways were put in, the transit lines were put in as an extension.

 

OK, back to the subject

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Heh.. this.. doesn't make sense:

 

Strickland could start to unwind years of biased transportation investment that disadvantaged cities and favored highways in suburban and rural Ohio. He could move up a project like the Opportunity Corridor, which will connect travelers on Interstate 490 to downtown and University Circle. The three-mile boulevard will stimulate economic and community development in Slavic Village, Central, Fairfax and other neighborhoods.

 

So... there's been years of biased transportation investment that favored highways.  The answer: build a road that helps... highway users?

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I would venture to say that the new road would help connect disadvantaged neighborhoods to the new job centers that are clustered around highways and the old ones that are on either end of the corridor. 

 

I don't know that I necessarily agree with the notion that we need to connect everything to the highway system and speed people around in automobiles, nor with the idea that University Circle is cut off from the region because of its distance from the highway network.  However, enough people do believe these things and it has had an adverse impact on the Circle's ability to attract regional visitors and private investment.

 

I think that the Circle will do all right without the OC, but I have started to accept that the neighborhoods along the OC route are going to continue to decline if they don't see some major public investment in the near future.  The OC could spur economic development that would spin off into neighborhood revitalization.  The neighborhoods are beginning to warm up to that idea.

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I would venture to say that the new road would help connect disadvantaged neighborhoods to the new job centers that are clustered around highways and the old ones that are on either end of the corridor.

 

I would venture that is the biggest reason this is still being pursued.

 

And don't forget - there are many, MANY, people behind the scenes who are pushing for an abandonment of the proposed innerbelt rebuilding in exchange of placing all funding toward this project.

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OK, this doesn't really belong here, but... on a weekend morning in August, I drove from Shaker Square to Tremont (brunch at Lucky's) in 12 minutes without exceeding (in any major way) the speed limit.  Not sure why I hadn't ever used 490 before for anything but the airport, but it sure made the near west side seem a lot closer (to the Heights).  During rush hour though, I'm guessing it takes a lot longer due to the E55th/Woodland intersection.

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What route did you take between 93rd and 55th?


"Now you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy, are you Buddy? It's the free market. And you're a part of it." -- Gordon Gekko.

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^Hmm, wouldn't that have deposited me at St. Ignatius?

 

I took Larchmere (OK, I actually started just north of SS), into Woodland, to 55th.  Once you're west of MLK, there are very few traffic lights.  I'm guessing it would be about the same driving time taking Shaker west into Woodland.  Once you turn right onto 490, you are literally 2.5 mins from Lucky's.

 

On a similar note, on the same trip home I made it on the #6 Bus from UH to Playhouse Square in 20 mins flat, even with the detours onto Chester- and that was a Friday afternoon at 4pm so.  It didn't exactly have to stop for passengers very much though.

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Believe it or not, I've made it from the western edge of Cle Hts to the airport in 16 minutes w/o violating the speed limit (ok, 5 over...)  Trick is to leave early enough when many of the lights on Carnegie are flashing yellow, although I'm not sure they do that anymore.

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