CLEVELAND, Ohio – In a packed sanctuary at St. Paul’s Community Church in Ohio City Tuesday night, residents, business owners and recreationalists wrestled with solving a problem that pits Cleveland’s industrial roots against its future aspirations.
The public meeting was a first look for about 100 residents at five options, narrowed down from 36, for getting truck, bike and pedestrian traffic to the southeast end of Whiskey Island.
Read about each of the five options at the bottom of the story.
The Willow Avenue lift bridge, which carries trucks and shepherds ships through the river channel, was built in 1964 and is coming to the end of its useful life, Rick Switalski, an city engineer from the Office of Capital Projects explained.
As the bridge has deteriorated, it has become unreliable for the businesses that depend on it, and in recent years it has cost the city more than $9.8 million in emergency repairs, Mike Woodring, who works for AECOM, an engineering consultant hired by the city, said.
AECOM considered three things in whittling down the feasible plans, according to its presentation.
Each option had to:
· Meet the purpose and the need of the project
· Have support from Norfolk & Southern Railroad
· Allow continued access to Whiskey Island while the alternative was being constructed
Beyond that, Goodring said, nothing has been determined and final decision could be years away. The city and consultants said they didn’t have preliminary cost estimates to share, and that the decision would not be based solely on cost.
“We’re still in the early stages.” Goodring said. “We’re here to get your feedback….We’re here to listen”
The remaining plans will be evaluated, he said, based on safety, addressing all modes of transportation, environmental impacts, project costs, and implications to businesses and neighbors.
It’s that last part — implications to business and neighbors, residents of Lakeview Terrace and apartments — that seemed to be the source of friction at the otherwise cordial meeting.
Councilmen Matt Zone and Kerry McCormack both said juggling issues raised by the lack of past planning and mix of housing and industry in the area was difficult.
“Our city was built out 200 years ago,” Zone said. “It was not built for this.”
Regardless, decisions made now will have generation-long effects, McCormack said, which is why community input matters.
Three main issues the city said it must balance are: Serving multimillion dollar businesses that rely on access to Whiskey Island, supporting efforts and investments by Cleveland Metroparks to connect recreational trails to the lakefront, and environmental and quality of life issues for residents of Lakeview Terrace and others who live near the current traffic routes and industry on the banks of the Cuyahoga River.
It was that last aspect, the planning effort needed to look out for residents of one of the oldest public housing complexes in the nation that garnered applause at the meeting — twice.
It also was visually supported by meeting attendees who wore dust masks, including mother Katherine Thorpe, who lives with her three children, ages, 10, 7 and 1, at in an apartment near W. 25th Street and Mulberry. Thorpe is on the route of trucks carrying rocks and gravel to and from Ontario Stone on River Road. She’s also close to where the company, which has operated in the area since the 1960s, stacks limestone gavel.
Thorpe said she constantly battles the dust, which exacerbates her son’s asthma. She was in favor of any plan that removed the trucks from her neighborhood.
Cleveland and its consultants have not yet looked at specific environmental impacts of the five plans. In narrowing the options, they examined what data is available, mainly from the Ohio EPA, but have not requested or gathered that existing data yet, Switalski said.
Ontario Stone Vice President Marc Barricelli said that even if the city selected a plan that would reroute the lion share of the trucks, containing all of the dust was an impossibility. A significant amount of truck traffic would still need to access company land not on Whiskey Island. And even though the company complies with current environmental regulations, “There’s only so much containment that can be done around a limestone quarry,” he said.
Switalski said businesses in the affected area, including Cargill Deicing Technology, which mines salt from under Lake Erie, employ hundreds of people in the community.
“I don’t want to make the industries who are down there the enemy,” he said.
Resident’s concerns aren’t that they hate the companies, said Whitnye Long Jones, an organizer with Ohio City Inc.
The concerns are their babies are developing asthma.
“We are in a quandary,” Goodring told the meeting attendees. “I’m sure whatever is decided in the end, not everyone will be happy.”
The five alternatives include:
· Rehabilitating the Willow Avenue lift bridge, which might be less expensive in the short term but has higher long-term costs for maintaining and operating the bridge, which has to be lifted for ships and boats as many as 20 times a day.
· Building a new lift bridge 90 feet to the east of the existing bridge and abandoning or demolishing the current bridge. This option also included higher long-term operating costs.
· Constructing a new Bascule bridge with two “leafs” that would open up to let ships and boats through. That style of bridge would be constructed over a narrow part of the Cuyahoga River channel near Mulberry Avenue, where the Cleveland Foundation Centennial Trail Lake Link currently ends now. It would require an operator, which is a higher continuing cost, but would line-up with the Metroparks planned Wendy Park Bridge.
· Build a new fixed bridge at W. 45th Street, which aligns with the Shoreway ramp at that location. That bridge would allow for enough clearance for ships and boats. Trucks could access it from the Shoreway and it could accommodate the bike route. It would not have the same long-term operational costs of a lift or Bascule bridge. It would require a four-way intersection with a traffic signal at West 45th Street.
· Construct a new fixed bridge at what was formerly State Street. A fixed bridge has a longer life because it doesn’t move. Bikes, pedestrians and trucks would access the bridge from Washington Avenue.
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