By Joe Baur
This will be my last post with Cool Cleveland.
Well, for a while.
See, my wife and I are heading down to Costa Rica this Thursday for a year, perhaps more, of Central American adventures. Then, it’s back to Cleveland for us.
For my last entry in the foreseeable future, I wanted to leave with a wish list for Cleveland. Below are five projects I’ve singled out that I am particularly excited about and would like to see completed or at the very least underway upon our return.
Until next time, ¡Pura vida a todos!
Red Line Greenway
The Rotary Club is behind this beauty of an idea that will see a greenway trail connect from West 65th to Downtown, the final leg stretching over the Cuyahoga River along the RTA viaduct. Anyone who has taken the Red Line west has probably seen what already looks like a Cleveland Metroparks-esque trail following alongside the tracks. It’s practically already carved out.
Leonard Stover, Rotary member and brains of the operation, likens the project to Cleveland’s version of New York City’s High Line Park — a path over a defunct rail line in Manhattan. I was lucky enough to visit the High Line a couple years back. If we can get anything remotely similar in Cleveland, we could easily chalk it up as win. I look forward to the incredible, panoramic views of the city while running or biking over the Cuyahoga.
Speaking of bikes, members of Bike Cleveland are working with the St. Clair Superior Development Corporation and Bialosky + Partners Architects on a bicycle expressway that would reclaim former streetcar tracks along Cleveland’s many wide and lightly trafficked thoroughfares. The plan calls for two-lane protected bikeways that snake across the center of roads like St. Clair Avenue, which is the sight of the proposed first leg to East 55th Street.
Supporters of The Midway estimates the project costing between $1.2 or $1.7 million per mile. Plain Dealer transportation reporter, Alison Grant, is quick to point out that such an investment is relatively cheap compared to the likes of other transportation projects. Curiously left out in her comparison is the Opportunity Corridor, which costs about $100 million per mile and does nothing to emphasize alternative transportation.
If the city is serious about lowering carbon emissions, making transportation healthy and truly becoming a green city, this project is another that I hope to see the city moving forward with by the time we make our way back home.
Red Line Rail Extension
There’s no hiding that this is a costly project. But again, the aforementioned Opportunity Corridor is designed to serve a very specific, auto-oriented and predominantly non-Cleveland population. The Red Line rail extension RTA is currently studying will finally reconnect downtown with Collinwood and set the stage for regional rail.
As a taxpayer, I have no problem spending money on a project that can help alleviate our region’s costly dependence on automobiles, especially considering the decades of neglect mass transit has received from the likes of the Ohio Department Of Transportation.
To the contrary, the Opportunity Corridor is yet another transportation project that seeks to primarily move cars in and out of the suburbs. We have more than enough of those from the days when Cleveland had more than twice its current population. Methinks rail that gives residents and businesses a reason to commit to the city is in order.
City-Wide Traffic Calming
A video recently came out showing how difficult it is for kids to cross Kinsman Avenue to get from their school to the library. Traffic blows by well over the speed limit as kids wait for the best moment to dart across the street. I saw it myself a month or so ago during a visit to the neighborhood. As a bus rider, myself and others alongside me had to sprint from the bus stop and across Kinsman in order to safely reach the Bridgeport Café.
It’s a miracle nobody, at least to my knowledge, has been killed trying to cross this street. Sadly there are plenty of stories out there, dating back to the tragic death of retired Senator George Voinovich’s daughter, of cyclists and pedestrians getting hit or killed by speeding motorists on the streets of Cleveland.
Luckily there is a plan to calm Kinsman. But why stop there? As we’ve already covered, Cleveland has no shortage of wide streets that encourage motorists to drive dangerously. The city should select a number of thoroughfares to calm, including Franklin Avenue in the near westside and Ontario Avenue off the highway clusterfuck at Carnegie.
Start actually ticketing folks who are speeding or texting while driving. Lower city streets to 20 miles per hour. Stop throwing traffic cops out during rush hour to guide bad drivers. Instead, punish those who are too antsy to wait their turn and find themselves in the middle of the intersection. Instill a culture of people first and automobiles a distant second.
Bike and Carshare
It feels like it has already been a few years since Cleveland first begun studying whether or not a bikeshare system is feasible here. Meanwhile, cities across Ohio have moved forward with bikeshare systems of their own, which have been quite successful in the likes of Minneapolis and New York City. Can we get on with it already?
Likewise, the expansion of carshare in Cleveland is necessary in order to truly give those of us hanging onto cars simply to visit suburban family members the option of going car-free.
Finish The Towpath
The Towpath is probably one of my favorite assets in Northeast Ohio. Unfortunately it remains largely disconnected from downtown. The recently finished leg in the Flats along Carter Road is a step in the right direction, but it’s sad how long it has taken to even get this far. We can build a couple of $500 million bridges for the Innerbelt in just a handful of years. Yet completing the Towpath in a reasonable amount of time seems to allude us.
Finish the path, bring the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad up to downtown, and work with Cleveland Metroparks, the City of Cleveland and adjacent suburbs to best connect the Towpath with our world-class Emerald Necklace.
Joe Baur is a freelance writer, filmmaker and satirist with a diverse array of interests including travel, adventure, craft beer, health, urban issues, culture and politics. He ranks his allegiances in the order of Cleveland, the state of Ohio and the Rust Belt, and enjoys a fried egg on a variety of meats. Joe has a B.A. in Mass Communication with a focus on production from Miami University. Follow him at http://JoeBaur.com and on Twitter @BaurJoe.