Project to make bridge pedestrian friendly in jeopardy

CLEVELAND (AP) - A plan to build bike lanes and wider sidewalks for pedestrians on a six-lane bridge spanning the Cuyahoga River has run into problems.
Construction was to begin this summer on the $2.2 million
project to eliminate the outer two vehicle lanes on the
Detroit-Superior Bridge, which links downtown to the city's working class West Side.
One problem is the bridge's center portion has trusses about two feet too low for clearance on a road that is part of a designated national truck route, said Dale Schiavoni, a district planning administrator for the Ohio Department of Transportation.
The center of the bridge also is probably not wide enough for four lanes as planned, he said.
Schiavoni said the federal government is holding up its $1.7 million share of the funding because of the problems. ODOT, Cuyahoga County and Cleveland officials are to meet Thursday to discuss the issue.
Councilman Joe Cimperman promised to have crowds at City Council on Monday night and outside the meeting Thursday to show their support.
"My frustration is that the nonsensical bureaucracy of
Washington is saying we cannot do this project. We have been working with the residents for three years," he said.
The Detroit-Superior Bridge, also called the Veteran's Memorial Bridge, is one of a handful of main thoroughfares crossing the Cuyahoga River.
There is a clear need to widen sidewalks that are now so narrow in some sections that two people cannot walk side by side, said Lillian Kuri, director of Cleveland Public Art, which initiated the project and has been coordinating the design.
"As citizens of Cleveland, we have a right to be able to walk across a bridge when we live in the neighborhood and feel safe doing it," Kuri said.
Schiavoni said the city or county could solve the issue by
seeking removal of the truck route designation.
However, as a national truck route, the federal and state
governments must pay for major work, such as the $45 million bridge renovation in 1995, he said.
Cuyahoga County Engineer Robert Klaiber said removing the
designation is not a realistic option.
"If you ever had to do something with that bridge, the county or the city without federal funds could never come up with $45 million," Klaiber said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)