CLEVELAND - It looked as if two barriers, railroad tracks and a freeway, keeping west side neighborhoods from the lakefront had been removed, but now more barriers may be on the horizon, namely money and Columbus.
Now some are wondering if state officials are going to leave the project half finished.
Known as the Lakefront West Project , the plan was to turn the West Shoreway from a limited-access freeway to a tree-lined boulevard, lowering speeds from 50 MPH to 35 MPH to also allow easier access to the lake and parks.
Heralded by city planners as a way to take advantage of one of Cleveland's greatest assets - the lake, some decried the 'deconstruction' of the freeway.
During phase one, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) project ran into unexpected and costly surprises. Moving sewer lines to build a pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks at West 76 and a roadway tunnel at West 73 has taken some two to three times more money than originally expected.
According to ODOT's timeline, construction of the West 73 roadway/tunnel is expected to begin in 2014.
The budget for Phase One is $49.8 million and higher costs associated with the tunnels mean some items originally slated for phase one are in jeopardy.
Now money to fund phase two is in limbo as ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) downgraded the project’s status.
Faced with objections from city leaders, ODOT has backed off from its original downgrade but still has the project in a lower tier for consideration of funding.
“We trusted ODOT was going to fulfill its promise to construct the West Shoreway as it was intended to be constructed,” said Christopher Alvarado board president of Bike Cleveland, a cycling advocacy group. "We're really just going down to Columbus to ask ODOT to really fulfill its promise."
A coalition from the City of Cleveland, Bike Cleveland, Neighborhood Progress, Inc. as well as Ohio City, Inc., Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization and Cudell Improvement will attend a meeting in Columbus to show ODOT officials how important the future of the project is to the city.
While no public comment will be permitted, local groups hope their numbers will speak for them.
Tuesday morning three cyclists left West 65 and Detroit headed to Columbus to attend the Thursday ODOT meeting.
One of them, Alex Nosse, felt there is a chance the outpouring of support could sway opinion in Columbus.
“If we didn’t have any hope that it would be successful we wouldn’t probably be doing it at all. The fact that ODOT has already revised its score once, albeit not satisfactorily, I think gives us some glimmer of hope,” he said.
Thursday morning a caravan of Clevelanders in cars and buses will depart at 7:00 a.m. headed to the meeting from West 61 and Detroit.
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