Top Ten Reasons ODOT Must Reconsider the Southern Bridge Alignment Plan- NOW!

Submitted by Ed Hauser on Mon, 12/05/2005 - 16:26.



On November 17 an 18, I participated at the last three meetings regarding ODOT's “Recommended Preferred Alternatives” for the Cleveland Innerbelt Plan. My conclusion is that ODOT must hit the brakes and reconsider the Southern Bridge Alignment Plan (South Bridge) before it is too late... read the whole story at NEO Bridge today!


remember the southern bridge alignment?

Thought I'd post this here since we are back on the bridge business and ODOT district 12 is looking pretty shady these days. For our consideration, with ramps closed and traffic thinning on the current structure, with numerous historic properties in the way of ODOT's preferred northern alignment, with tough economic times upon us, maybe it is time to have another look at our infrastructure needs with a fresh eye and a stronger public involvement process.

ODOT by the way never did follow through and do an assessment of the southern alignment. Maybe they were too busy fishing, contracting strippers and throwing taxpayer money away. They ignored Ed, too. What follows is a well considered, eloquent request from a citizen who for 10 years has not stopped asking the right questions on behalf of the public.

Southern Bridge Alignment Alternative

Preliminary Assessment Findings - Request for ODOT to Reconsider the Cleveland Innerbelt Bridge Alternative for the Southern Bridge Alignment

December 21, 2005
To: Gordon Proctor
Director, Ohio Department of Transportation
1980 W. Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43223

From: Ed Hauser
11125 Lake Avenue #402
Cleveland, OH 44102

Distribution List:

Interested Citizens, Organizations, Public Officials, and the Media
U.S. Senators: George Voinovich, Mike DeWine
U.S. Representatives: Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Dennis Kucinich
FHWA Ohio Office: Herman Rodrigo, Director-Program Development; Dennis Decker, Division Administrator;
Victoria Peters, Director- Office of Engineering & Operations
Governor of Ohio- Robert Taft
Ohio Senators: Representing Greater Cleveland Districts
Ohio Representatives: Representing Greater Cleveland Districts
ODOT District 12: David Coyle, Deputy Director; Craig Hebebrand, Innerbelt Plan Project Manager
Ohio Lake Erie Commission: Members
Ohio Historic Preservation Office- Franco Ruffini, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer
Cuyahoga County Commissioners: Tim Hagan, President; Jimmy Dimora, Peter Lawson Jones
Cuyahoga County Planning Commission: Members
Mayor of Cleveland- Jane Campbell
Mayor Elect of Cleveland- Frank Jackson
Cleveland City Council: Members
Cleveland City Planning Commission: Members

Dear Director Proctor:

As a citizen, I have participated in ODOT's Cleveland Innerbelt Plan from the first meeting in 2001 through last week's meeting at the Cleveland City Planning Commission. I will share my findings in this preliminary assessment that focuses on the Innerbelt Bridge Alternatives. The overall finding is that ODOT must reconsider the Southern Bridge Alignment Alternative for the reasons brought forth below. At this time, there is insufficient information available to the public and inadequate explanations why the Southern Bridge Alignment Alternative was removed from further consideration.

Please respond to this request in five business days and add this preliminary assessment request to the public record under "public comments." I will submit a separate public records request (FOIA) to ODOT's public information officer regarding the public records for the Cleveland Innerbelt Bridge Alternatives.

Overview of Findings

The county planning commission submitted an alternative plan for a southern bridge alignment in March 2003 that was removed from further consideration by ODOT in June 2005. The only reason the South Bridge plan was removed can be found in the minutes of the Urban Core Projects Advisory Committee on June 9, 2005- “Paul Dorothy added that the Southern Alignment for the bridge has been removed from further consideration because it would require taking the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation on the south end of the bridge.”

However, it seems that there was an alternative that wouldn't take the church, as mentioned in those minutes, “Paul Alsenas said at the last Committee meeting, a Southern Alternative was shown that allowed the church to remain.” Also, during the last three public meetings, ODOT acknowledged that the Southern Bridge plan is “feasible.”

The question remains- Why was the Southern Bridge plan removed from further consideration? ODOT still has to provide us a timely and logical answer to that question, before choosing the final bridge alignment. Without a clear answer to that question, public records need to be inspected to find the answer.

ODOT is Proceeding Without Full Consideration of All Public Comments Being Gathered

Up to now, there has been an overwhelming public response for ODOT to reconsider southern bridge alignment plan. It seems that public input does not enter into the equation when ODOT decides how a half-billion dollars of our tax money is spent for the new Innerbelt Bridge. ODOT stated that they will not reconsider the southern bridge alignment although they admit the plan is feasible.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't ODOT using public money for both the Innerbelt Bridge project and for their salaries? Why did ODOT hire consultants to design a half-billion dollar bridge that does not have public consensus? As the old saying goes, “don't bite the hand that feeds you,” meaning that public servants work for the public and must listen to what we tell them! At this time ODOT has no intention to reconsider the Southern Bridge Alignment Plan.

ODOT has already selected the bridge design team for its “recommended” northern bridge alignment plan. That means the taxpayers are paying a bridge design team without ODOT addressing the public comments from the last round of public meetings and the comments that will be submitted through the end of January. The main question here is- Will ODOT will correct its official Transportation Development Process? If ODOT corrects its process, the best alternative for the bridge alignment will emerge.

Top Ten Reasons Why ODOT Must Reconsider the Southern Bridge Alignment Plan:

10. ODOT's removal of the South Bridge plan is invalid because Greek Orthodox Church can remain. ODOT must clearly explain why the Southern Bridge Alignment Alternative was removed from further consideration, after acknowledging that the plan is feasible.

9.Public comments gathered so far, support the South Bridge plan. Public comments submitted to ODOT for the Innerbelt Plan must be posted on its website.

8.ODOT has hired the bridge designers prior to compiling and addressing all public comments gathered through the deadline in January.

7.U.S. Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Cuyahoga County Planning Commission and most importantly the public supports an independent review for the South Bridge plan.

6.No cost analysis for the South Bridge span, which is hundreds of feet shorter than the North Bridge. The only cost analysis has been for the North Bridge alignments.

5.No economic impact study for the North or South Bridge plans. Economic Impact Studies for both the Northern and Southern Bridge Alignment Alternatives must be completed and assessed prior to the final decision of the alignment. There are differences between the Northern and Southern Bridge Alignments regarding the amount and location of prime land that would be opened up.

4.No engineering analysis for the South Bridge plan. There are differences between the Northern and Southern Bridge Alignments in the approaches to the Central Interchange and the ramp closures.

3.The Historic Preservation Act requires that all alternatives be examined prior to demolishing a structures or property eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. ODOT's “Recommended Preferred Alternative” for the North Bridge takes property eligible for the NRHP. The Innerbelt Bridge is also within the boundary of the Ohio Coastal Management Program, therefore the bridge development must be consistent with OCMP policies.

2.Step 6 (current step) of ODOT's Transportation Development Process states “The decision to carry forward more than one alternative is permissible. If more than one alternative is reasonable and there are no major difference in the level of potential impacts among the alternative, then all of those alternatives should be carried forward through the evaluations in this step."

1.ODOT must Reconsider the South Bridge Plan to cultivate public trust and confidence in ODOT. The implementation of ODOT's "Transportation Development Process" is flawed and needs to be corrected immediately, to fulfill its requirement for a "balanced consideration of alternatives and impacts." It is clear, for the reasons stated above, that certain requirements and obligations in ODOT's official process have not been met.


Step 6 is very critical in the determination of what bridge alignment we will have live with for the next 50-100 years. It will also have a tremendous impact on the economic development opportunities and attractiveness of our great community.

At this time, ODOT is recommending that we proceed with its preferred alternative that will repair the existing Innerbelt bridge for eastbound traffic and build a new bridge to the north. ODOT's Recommended Preferred Alternative has many flaws associated with it and there is an urgent need for the Southern Bridge Alignment Alternative to “be carried forward through the evaluations in this step.”

Respectfully submitted,

Ed Hauser

One of many real NEO rights, in places going wrong

I believe history will show the folks on REALNEO come to the right conclusions every time - we're a smart bunch, and we use the best process... free, open, public discussion.

Obviously, we need one new bridge... or no bridge at all. I'd go for that... I don't need to go over there very often and would be glad to take side roads and enjoy the reviving downtown, as all the Xurbans ditch their cars and move where the action will be. Seems in the cards, now.

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Too bad REALinks got torched

I see the link to neobridge... and think of all the good work and content that got lost when the company originating realneo got torched and ruined by some of its insiders... we had so many important sites and movements going (which is why the insiders torched their own initiative... er, my initiative)... it was a great loss and lost opportunity never to be regained.

I hope we've learned some lessons, as we start a new era with new and far better leadership. 

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where did it go?

Was the data dumped? I see via a whois search that someone in Delaware owns the domain name now. No page though. I don't understand how this happens, but everyday I find that pages that used to refer to important information are gone.

In light of that and because many such journalist accounts have disappeared, before more opinions and accounts evaporate, I'll copy two here for history sake. My apologies in advance to Litt and Gill. and I quote in total:

 ODOT’S GREEK CHURCH GAMBIT … ODOT’s public meeting last week unveiling their “preferred, recommended” alternative for rebuilding the Innerbelt brought out the multitudes, but none so misled as the people of the Greek Orthodox Church in Tremont.
Their concern was the location of the I-90 bridge: as part of the Innerbelt project, ODOT wants to build a new add-on to the north of the existing bridge. But County Planning Director Paul Alsenas has been advocating for a route slightly to the south, which would result in less clutter around Gateway, and more land unveiled for possible redevelopment.
The Greeks were upset because they thought the southerly route would also require demolition of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation on West 14th Street in Tremont — because that’s what ODOT had told them. So dozens of parishioners showed up at ODOT’s public meeting, many carrying hand-lettered signs urging that “I-90 go north.”
But as Alsenas showed at a Tuesday meeting called by RealNeo, a citizens’ group, the route he proposes would not impact the church, except perhaps to make it more visible. And as recently as March, ODOT officials met with Alsenas to show him that a southerly route was viable. They changed their tune by June, though, and have never explained why — except to throw out that frightening bit about the church.
County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, who was baptized in the church, described ODOT’s scare tactic as “gamesmanship.”
In the interest of a more graceful highway entry into Cleveland, Alsenas and RealNEO are strategizing about how to present their argument to taxpayers and the two government entities that hold sway, ODOT and the City of Cleveland. Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones’ request for a federal independent study could help their cause, but the clock is ticking: ODOT has already narrowed the search for an engineer to three, and the request for proposals specified the northerly route. ODOT plans to name its engineer in December.

— Michael Gill

Ensnared in an Inner Belt jam
ODOT’s costly and controversial I-90 bridge plan could jeopardize Cleveland’s development
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Steven Litt
Plain Dealer Architecture Critic

Christian Menn of Switzerland has designed some of the most beautiful and innovative contemporary bridges on the planet.

But in Cleveland, he has become a whistleblower.

In phone calls and e-mails over the past month, the 81-year-old engineer said that the Ohio Department of Transportation brushed his ideas aside and selected a concept for a new I-90 bridge over the Cuyahoga River that’s ugly, structurally unnecessary and more expensive than it needs to be.

As a result, Menn said he no longer wants to consult on the project for the Michael Baker Corp. of Pittsburgh, the company ODOT assigned to design the bridge.

“I would not have my name combined with an ugly bridge,” Menn said.

Such sentiments, coming from an insider, are shocking enough. But the true import of Menn’s critique is that it raises larger questions about whether ODOT has done the best possible job with its proposal to revamp the entire downtown Inner Belt, the city’s main highway artery, of which the bridge is a big part.

A review of the project suggests the answer is no:

Under the administration of former Gov. Bob Taft, ODOT spent seven years and $13.1 million on an Inner Belt plan that has caused bitter controversy and is still at least a year from being finished.

The agency wants to spend $1.5 billion from 2010 to 2025 to smooth Dead Man’s Curve, improve the flow of interstate traffic through the Inner Belt “trench,” reduce accidents, and build not one, but two new bridges over the river. Local businesses and institutions, from the Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Clinic, fear that by removing downtown exits, ODOT will choke the city’s fragile economy.

An economic-impact study paid for by ODOT suggests that the city will net less than a few hundred permanent jobs by 2035 when the Inner Belt is done. That’s a stunningly small yield for such a huge investment, and it suggests something is deeply wrong with the project.

Instead of helping the city, the Inner Belt as designed could undermine the new developments being unleashed by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s Euclid Corridor bus project.

In other words, one big government investment could cancel out another. That’s a scary prospect at a time when Cleveland is losing people and jobs and suffering from poverty and declining property values.

Highway construction is always disruptive. But if the city is to suffer, it deserves a big payoff. Unfortunately, ODOT has been tone-deaf to the need for a design that will boost the local economy.

“They staked out some very rigid positions and did not do much to present alternatives,” said James Haviland, director of the nonprofit Midtown Cleveland Inc., a business group pushing for improvements in the plan.

City needs to act quickly

There’s still time to fix the project, but not much. To start building in 2010, ODOT needs federal approval of its plan by next winter. Further delays could jeopardize federal and state funding.

With the newly elected administration of Gov. Ted Strickland in Columbus and new leadership at the higher levels of ODOT, there’s an opportunity, albeit brief, for dramatic revisions.

Here’s what should happen:

In addition to keeping at least one of the major downtown exits ODOT wants to remove, the agency should re-examine all of its assumptions about bridging the Cuyahoga River to see if there are better and cheaper solutions.

To ameliorate the trauma of construction, ODOT should consider capping large sections of the Inner Belt “trench” to let the city grow over the scar. Sections of the highway that curve around the south and east sides of downtown could be covered with platforms that could support streets, sidewalks, landscaping and perhaps even buildings.

Finally, the design for the Inner Belt should make the city more beautiful and economically healthy. As it stands, it’s a collection of parts whose goal is simply to move interstate traffic through the city more efficiently and safely.

The fragmented nature of the plan reflects ODOT’s strategy of dealing with the city’s balkanized neighborhood constituencies one at a time and, in effect, dividing potential opposition.

“They’ve picked everybody off and played everyone against one another,” said Hunter Morrison, director of Urban and Regional Studies at Youngstown State University and Cleveland’s former planning director.

The city, for its part, never articulated a comprehensive vision. It’s time for that to happen now.

The plan for bridging the Cuyahoga, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the cost of the entire Inner Belt project, especially deserves immediate scrutiny.

The current plan is to kick off the Inner Belt redo from 2010 to 2013 by building a new, five-lane westbound bridge, on which Menn was asked to consult.

ODOT then will renovate the existing I-90 bridge, which is 50 years old and nearing the end of its useful life. That bridge will operate as a five-lane, eastbound span until 2025.

In 2022, ODOT will build a new eastbound span. When it’s done, the old bridge will come down.

The total cost: $910 million. ODOT says it can’t draw enough cash from the federal and state governments to build the two bridges sooner and save money. That’s why we’re heading toward a billion-dollar investment in bridges.

Given that outlay, it’s fair to question ODOT’s plan, which, aside from its eye-popping price, could cause serious collateral damage.

The problem is that ODOT wants to build the two new bridges north of the existing one, which will push I-90 closer to the Gateway sports complex and other buildings on the south side of downtown.

As a result, ODOT may have to build an ugly flyover ramp in front of Jacobs Field to carry southbound traffic from Ontario Street onto the westbound bridge.

Computer renderings prepared by ODOT so far fail to show the full impact of a 25-foot-high ramp loaded with buses and trucks in front of the ballpark’s facade.

Retaining walls also will be needed near Gateway when I-90 presses closer to the city, giving the southern edge of downtown the look of a medieval fortress.

On top of all that, moving I-90 closer to downtown will require the demolition of the historic 1894 Broadway Mills building at 300 Central Viaduct. A new Ontario ramp also could isolate the Western Reserve Fire Museum on Commercial Road and force a city fire station to move.

Looking for alternatives

All of these problems could be avoided if ODOT built a new bridge south of the existing one, which would move I-90 farther from Gateway and downtown, create more room for development and push the spaghetti bowl of the central interchange farther south.

ODOT rejected the idea out of fear of pushing I-90 closer to the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in the Tremont neighborhood.

ODOT also said it would be impossible to attach a new bridge to the existing one on the southern alignment without shutting down traffic for two to three years.

But Menn’s critique of the current bridge proposal raises the question whether ODOT could find a different answer if it sought more creative advice — quickly — from gifted engineers of Menn’s stature. It’s important to reach beyond those already working on the project, who have a vested interest in defending the existing plan, lest they admit they’ve wasted seven years and millions of dollars.

If, on the other hand, ODOT is determined to build two bridges on the northern alignment, elected officials should ask the agency to come up with a cheaper and better design, creating savings that could be applied elsewhere.

Debate over the bridge so far has focused on how to create something spectacular as a new gateway to Cleveland. But let’s face it: The flood plain of the Cuyahoga River downtown is a mile wide. At the I-90 crossing, the river is way over on the west side, opposite downtown. As ODOT’s engineers discovered last summer, the bridge needs to be only 450 feet across.

The situation doesn’t call for a 200-foot-high cable-stayed tower, which is what ODOT and the Michael Baker Corp. agreed on as a way to satisfy the public’s desire for a highly visible statement.

If built, the westbound bridge with the high tower would cost $260 million, about 15 percent over ODOT’s target.

Menn calls it “decoration,” not a bridge that expresses structural forces simply and elegantly. It will be a bauble, a monument to pork.

Officials from ODOT and Baker naturally disagree with Menn’s viewpoint. But they agree that they chose a bridge structure or “type” that is both expensive and not strictly required by the problem of spanning the river.

With fresh creativity — certainly involving Menn, if he’d agree to it — we still could save money and get a beautiful and honestly designed bridge. Savings there could be spent elsewhere on things that could truly help the city.

Youngstown State’s Morrison, for one, has a great idea: Cap as much of the Inner Belt trench as possible, and let the city grow over it. Allow the campus of Cleveland State University to extend toward those of Cuyahoga Community College and St. Vincent Charity Hospital. Create what Morrison calls “University Circle West.” Emphasize education and medicine as keys to the future.

Meanwhile, at Midtown Cleveland, Haviland continues to fight to retain the Inner Belt exit at Carnegie Avenue. He said this would be possible if Clevelanders and the federal government agree to a full or partial demolition of the landmark Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court complex on East 22nd Street. That step could make sense in a city fighting for economic survival.

Of course, these are not the only potential ways to improve ODOT’s Inner Belt proposal. Others may be possible. What’s clear now is that a huge federal and state highway investment is poised to cause as much harm as good. That’s ridiculous.

Cleveland should insist on a better design.

Litt is architecture critic of The Plain Dealer. To reach this Plain Dealer columnist: slitt [at] plaind [dot] com, 216-999-4136

© 2007 The Plain Dealer.

That is a question for Jeff S.

If it was on our server, it is still on our server, or Jeff S. moved it to his server - but it should still exist. If it was on any other realinks development platform that is gone, the content is gone. Let's find out... 

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