Friday, December 18, 2009

Bridging the Gap, Literally and Figuratively

The ongoing hullabaloo regarding the replacement/renovation of the Inner Belt Bridge coming into downtown Cleveland has led to discussion of the potential of including a pedestrian walkway in the design. Far be it from me to suppose scholarly knowledge of the issue, but why wouldn't they include a pedestrian walkway? With the 'death of downtown' issue haunting nearly every conversation, why would planners and ODOT neglect a simple, modern, and aesthetically beautiful way to encourage people to come into the city?

Having lived in Tremont, I can vouch for the value of having pedestrian access. I used to run down through the industrial flats, across the river, and back up Central Viaduct to get downtown, not the most pedestrian friendly (but only reasonable) route. The run back was a pleasure, across the Hope Memorial (Lorain Carnegie) Bridge, with the majestic views of downtown and the 'Titans of Industry' towering overhead. I always felt a genuine sense of pride in my city as I made my way to Ohio City.

Other, more progressive (i.e. younger, more inventive, less curmudgeonly) areas like Washington D.C. have produced beautiful and efficient examples of bridges that accommodate traffic other than those in vehicles. So what's the holdup? Skeptics argue about cost ($20 million to incorporate into current design is estimated), safety, and necessity, foremost. I would respond (long story short style) by saying, that $20 million is pocket change in terms of the cost of the project, not to mention the benefit that it will create economically upon completion (increased accessibility, dare I suggest TOURIST opportunities?!?). With regards to safety, a glance at the proposal should dispel that argument (see below).

And finally, necessity: as was so elegantly pronounced by GreenCityBlueLake;

"Overall, 25% of Cleveland households do not own a car (46,841 households, 114,292 individuals)
  • 30% of Tremont households do not own a car (962 households, 2347 individuals)
  • 65% of Central households do not own a car (2934 households, 7159 individuals)
  • 42% of Downtown households do not own a car (1126 households, 2747 individuals)"
Think some of these people might appreciate an alternate route in and out of town?

I won't even get into the more detailed arguments for and against, as they have already been addressed both here and here. I'll close with my personal feeling on the subject;

Dear ODOT, Cleveland, Other Decision Makers, As a resident, I've seen various organizations screw up and screw us over and over again. The Ameritrust Tower, Convention Center, Medical Mart, etc. have all served to further weaken the bank accounts of your devoted citizenry, and I for one have had about as much as I can stand. You wonder why people are fleeing the place in droves? Look at yourself and LISTEN TO YOUR CONSTITUENTS!

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