Innerbelt Fix-Up Could Cost $1.8 Billion

CLEVELAND (AP) - Improving the city's Innerbelt could cost up to $1.8 billion, about $600 million more than the state's annual expenditure for road construction projects.

Ohio Department of Transportation planners are looking at 10 options for relieving highway congestion through downtown Cleveland.

The construction could be spaced over 10 years, beginning in 2007.

"The region as a whole needs to determine what our needs are and what is best," said Craig Hebebrand, project manager for ODOT. "We are looking at a lot of opportunities."

The Innerbelt ties together Cleveland's main arteries, Interstates 90, 71 and 77, near downtown.

The simplest option would be to redo the road surface, widen the innerbelt bridge to include safety berms and make the sharp innerbelt curve an easier turn. That option would cost an estimated $476 million.

"This represents the minimum that needs to be done to allow the existing system with no capacity changes to operate for the next 40 to 50 years," said Paul Dorothy, assistant project manager for ODOT's consultant, Burgess & Niple.

The most expensive option at more than $1.8 billion would include building a new highway through East Cleveland and the east side of Cleveland to bypass downtown. Boulevards would be created for other key streets, including one to replace a portion of the current innerbelt.

Some Clevelanders have been critical of building a new highway through Cleveland. But East Cleveland Mayor Emmanuel Onunwor said it could be a tool to attract businesses and jobs to his city.

"I want to see the economic benefits," Onunwor said. "If it benefits our city, I would love that."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)