City Leaders Envision Moving Freeway For Lake Access

By JOE MILICIA, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Business leaders pitched a plan Thursday to replace the city's shoreline freeway with a tree-lined boulevard and bike path that would open up access to Lake Erie and provide land for parks and development.

They are proposing the project to coincide with the Ohio Department of Transportation's repair of the city's innerbelt -- a series of bridges and ramps connecting three interstates downtown.

"It's a screaming opportunity to fix a lot of stuff that could generate some incredible development in this town for 50 years," said Bud Koch, president of Charter One Bank.

The plan calls for the city's shoreway to be moved several hundred feet south. The shoreway is a stretch of highway built 40 years ago that runs parallel to the lake, cutting off neighborhoods from waterfront access.

"You drive by it at 65, 70 mph. You barely look at it," a plan designer, Paul Volpe, said of Lake Erie.

Volpe, of Cleveland-based City Architecture, proposes an eight-mile boulevard with 17 intersections, along with a bike path, that would provide access to the lakefront.

Mayor-elect Jane Campbell liked the idea.

"Upon initial review, I am enthused by these plans because they attempt to reclaim the lakefront for greater public use and access," she said in a statement Thursday.

Moving the shoreway also would open up more than 350 acres for development, according to Cleveland Tomorrow and the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, which spent $150,000 to develop the plan.

ODOT has encouraged the city to address future needs as the state designs a plan to repair the innerbelt, said Craig Hebebrand, innerbelt project manager. ODOT plans to spend at least $200 million to replace the innerbelt's aging bridge decks and ramps.

Construction will begin in 2007.

"There's a potential to maximize our investment," Hebebrand said.

The plan to relocate the shoreway, which also will need repair in 10 years, is feasible from an engineering standpoint, Hebebrand said. The question is whether it's cost effective.

"Are the payoffs so great they justify that investment?" he said. "You're talking about things that are hard to measure."

Koch, a member of Cleveland Tomorrow's board of trustees, said the portion of the lakefront plan west of downtown could be completed within five years for about $55 million. A combination of public and private money likely would be used.

The downtown and east side portions would take longer and be tied in with the innerbelt repairs. The project cost for those areas had not been determined but could run up to $1 billion, said David Goss, senior director of infrastructure and transportation at the Growth Association.

While acknowledging the large cost, Dennis Eckart, the Growth Association's president and CEO, said the city can't afford to miss an opportunity to reconfigure the lakefront.

"We have to seize the moment," Eckart said. "We have to stop thinking small. We have to think big."

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)