Cleveland given extension on $12 million Public Square grant repayment

Cleveland given extension on $12 million Public Square grant repayment
Letter Granting Extension
Letter Granting Extension

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has received a one-time 30-day extension to repay a $12 million debt to the Federal Transit Administration.

The FTA sent a letter granting the GCRTA request on January 12, in it, the FTA grants an extension until February 21 .

According to the letter granting the extension, the FTA states the GCRTA needs to either open Public Square to buses or repay a $12 million portion of a federal grant by the new deadline.  The FTA said in an earlier letter that the closure of Public Square to buses violated a federal grant agreement that awarded money to pay for the Euclid Corridor project, now known as the HealthLine.

The letter granting the deadline extension states, "The FTA's position is that a permanent closure of Superior Avenue constitutes a breach of the Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) resulting in a debt owed to the FTA...the closure of Public Square has removed federally funded assets from use in public transportation, which was originally intended purpose for the funds."

Cleveland 19 asked GCRTA CEO Joe Calabrese if there was any way, in his opinion, that Public Square could remain closed and that the $12 million wouldn't have to be paid.

"We are looking at the cost, that's what the traffic study is about. [We were] always very clear that to not pay the $12 million, we'd need FTA concurrence for that. It doesn't sound optimistic, but we're gonna try based on the results of the study and based on a comfortable way to open this and address any safety concerns that might be out there," said Calabrese.

The GCRTA and the City of Cleveland have commissioned a traffic study of Public Square, that will look at if any additional time is added to bus trips as a result of the closure of Public Square, and if there is any additional time added, how it can be mitigated.

The extension will allow the city and the RTA to better analyze the information from the study Calabrese said.

"The results of the study and the old deadline being this Friday were very, very close. Now, we'll have some more time to analyze the traffic data, analyze what cost impact it has to RTA, number one present that to the city - we're doing the study jointly with the city - then present that to the FTA as well," said Calabrese.

Public Square was closed to buses in March of 2015. Although it was supposed to reopen on Aug. 1, the city announced Nov. 16 that the road would remain permanently closed due to safety and terrorism concerns, according to Mayor Frank Jackson.

A report from a traffic study examining what, if any, delays the closure of Public Square to buses will cause is expected to be completed Wednesday.

The City of Cleveland declined to comment on the story to Cleveland 19, saying that there was "nothing more to report on at this time." 

RELATED: Activists, City Council members knock mayor's decision to close Public Square to buses

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