CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has asked the Federal Transit Administration for another extension -- a Feb. 21 deadline -- to either reopen Public Square to buses or pay a $12 million fine. If granted, it would be the second time the GCRTA asked for, and was granted, an extension.
The letter states more time is needed for the GCRTA and the city of Cleveland to review traffic and safety studies performed on Public Square, and implement recommendations made in the studies.
Buses in Public Square have been the subject of controversy since the square's reopening in August 2016, when the city made the decision to keep Superior Avenue closed to public transit. In August, the FTA warned that keeping the road closed to buses would be a breach of contract. In late December, the FTA sent a letter demanding the GCRTA reopen Public Square or pay $12 million for what the feds say is a breach of a federal grant agreement.
The portion of Public Square that was supposed to allow bus transit was funded by a federal grant given to the RTA in Oct. 2004 for the construction of the Euclid Corridor Transportation Project, now known as the HealthLine.
Mayor Frank Jackson has stated that he will not reopen the square due to security and terrorism concerns. He also initially stated that the GCRTA would have to show that the closure caused a financial burden to the public transit agency.
A city official has since admitted that recent studies have proven that financial burden, but city officials stated safety and security concerns still remained despite studies which stated a risk was present whether Superior was open or closed to bus traffic.
The most recent letter asked for more time in order to implement some of the recommendations made by the most recent studies, including the following:
- The city and RTA police departments will take time to develop and implement a plan to enforce bus only traffic and deter jay walking
- The city needs to add double yellow line and white line markings
- The city would need to add more pedestrian crossing signs
- The city would need to install a temporary railing to channel pedestrian traffic to crosswalks
- 20 mph signs would need to be installed
- GCRTA would need to train bus drivers
- The city would need to improve ADA markings and warnings
- The city and RTA will need special event organizers to coordinate reopening of Superior Avenue
The letter did not ask for a specific amount of time in the extension request, only stating that the extension would enable local decision makers to continue to work "toward a safe and secure reopening" of Public Square to bus traffic.