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Cleveland Innerbelt Study
A Strategy for the Intelligent Renewal of the Transportation Infrastructure
by Craig K. Hebebrand, P.E., Project Manager, Cleveland Innerbelt Study
Ohio Department of Transportation, District 12

Among the many important undertakings in Greater Cleveland in the early 21st Century will be the study by the Ohio Department of Transportation to determine a strategy for the intelligent renewal of Cleveland's Innerbelt. The Innerbelt is a key component of the region's vast transportation network of roadways, railways, waterways and airports. The Innerbelt is a vital link connecting Cleveland's neighborhoods, educational and public service facilities, commercial and business districts, industrial and trade centers and entertainment and recreational venues, and providing Cleveland with access to regional, national and international markets.

The Cleveland Innerbelt was the result of the integration of the Regional Association of Cleveland's plan for a regional highway system and America's plan for an interregional highway system. Constructed in the late 1950's and early 1960's to handle an estimated 97,000 vehicles per day, the corridor now serves more than 148,000 vehicles on an average day. This 5.3 mile stretch of urban Interstate contains 37 ramps and includes four system interchanges. The corridor has 21 mainline bridges, including the 5000 foot long Central Viaduct Bridge, which carries eight lanes of Interstate 90 over the Cuyahoga River Valley. The Cleveland Innerbelt has endured over 40 years of traffic and an equal number of Northeast Ohio winters. As a result, the bridge decks and pavements are approaching the end of their useful lives and will soon require replacement. The Ohio Department of Transportation has estimated that it will cost a minimum of $200 million just to replace the existing bridge decks and pavements. The cost of addressing all of the corridors deficiencies will require a significantly greater investment.

Greater Cleveland now has an opportunity to revisit planning decisions made a half century ago and begin the process of planning for a transportation system that will serve the future needs of the community. To capitalize on this unique opportunity and to prepare for the challenges of reconstructing this heavily used urban Interstate, the Ohio Department of Transportation initiated the Cleveland Innerbelt Study. The Cleveland Innerbelt Study has brought together the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and stakeholders from throughout the community, to develop and endorse a plan that will serve the future transportation needs of the Innerbelt corridor while respecting the delicate fabric of the community.

At the same time, the Study recognizes that the Interstate Highway System is only one component of a much more vast and comprehensive regional transportation system. Therefore, the Study will consider the interaction of the various components, including how the Interstate Highway System functions with the local street system. There are locations along the corridor where the limitations of the Interstate Highway System result in route shifts onto city streets, as well as, locations where the limitations of the local street system impact the operation of the Interstate Highway System.

In addition, there are several other significant transportation initiatives that will require careful coordination. These include a study by the three metropolitan planning organizations to evaluate transportation options along the corridor between Canton, Akron and Cleveland, and a study by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to develop a Bus Rapid Transit line along Euclid Avenue between Public Square and University Circle. Also included is a study by the City of Cleveland to identify an efficient and appropriate truck route between the Interstate Highway System and the Cuyahoga River Valley, known locally as the "Flats." The "Flats" are home to many of the region's traditional industries, including salt mining, steel manufacturing and bulk material handling, as well as, the Port of Cleveland, which is located on Lake Erie at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River.

The Cleveland Innerbelt Study includes substantial efforts to fully understand the relationship between the transportation system and the community. These efforts began with the establishment of an advisory committee that brings together fifty-six government, business, institution and community leaders. The advisory committee's primary responsibility is to serve as the study's conscience. The advisory committee members are also expected to serve as liaisons between the Study Team and their constituents. Both the mission statement and the goals and objectives statement developed by this committee reflect the importance placed on the neighborhoods. Improving neighborhood safety, access, modal choice and quality of life predominates the discussions, as does the importance of reducing truck and cut-through traffic in the neighborhoods and minimizing potential impacts to the residents.

The emphasis placed on the neighborhoods today is a direct result of the impact from the original construction of the Interstate Highway System. From the late 1950's through the early 1980's, the construction of the existing Interstate system dramatically changed the topography and character of the corridor. In particular, the Tremont neighborhood, immediately south of downtown Cleveland, was severely impacted as the construction of three Interstates removed large swaths of homes and created chasms between adjacent neighborhood streets. The loss of population that began with the demolition of the existing housing stock continued as the newly constructed Interstate Highway System provided convenient access that hastened the migration of residents from the urban neighborhoods to the suburbs.

To better understand the relationship between the transportation system and the community, the Study Team has been meeting with neighborhood and faith-based groups and community development corporations. A formal presentation by the Study Team providing the participants with an introduction to the Cleveland Innerbelt Study. A question and answer session follows the presentation. The Study Team considers the establishment of this type of open and honest dialogue with the community to be critical to the success of the Cleveland Innerbelt Study.

The Study Team is currently completing its evaluation of the existing Innerbelt corridor and will soon begin to develope alternatives. The Study Team has modified the traditional alternatives development process in order to coordinate the technical team's efforts with the public involvement process. This includes the addition of a series of meetings with various community groups to affirm the needs assessment prior to initiating the alternatives development process. The alternatives development process itself is iteractive, with the community contributing to the technical team's efforts through a series of planning charettes.

The Cleveland Innerbelt Study is intended to be a fair and open process allowing the community to participate in the development of a strategy for the intelligent renewal of the transportation infrastructure. A strategy that works not only for commuters, but for the entire community.

For further information visit the Cleveland Innerbelt Study website at .

The Study Team is lead by Burgess & Niple, of Columbus, Ohio, and includes a large number of nationally recognized subconsultants who bring a significant depth of knowledge to the problem of revitalizing urban Interstates.

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