Cleveland's Public Square to reopen for bus routes Monday

Cleveland's Public Square to reopen for bus routes Monday
Published: Mar. 2, 2017 at 10:02 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2017 at 10:18 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - An official with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority said they will reopen Cleveland's Public Square to bus routes Monday.

RTA ran buses down Superior, through Public Square, nine days ago to assess how public transit would work if some barriers had to remain up permanently or semi-permanently.

"We're talking about different barriers in terms of from a security perspective, and turning radius, you can look at turning radius of buses but you really need to operate buses out and see what the clearances are and we did that yesterday. I think a lot was learned. The city was going back to do some more calculations do some more research," said RTA CEO Joe Calabrese.

Calabrese stressed that safety and security is everyone's concern. He also said that in order to get the two-week extension, RTA had to outline what they would do with the additional time the feds gr anted them.

Bus riders seem to be happy about the plans. Ida Cook, who uses a cane to get around, depends on the bus to get into downtown Cleveland.

"Right now it's very important. I'm glad they have it close by," she said.

Kenneth Wright agrees.

"Why do all that work, rebuild that road, repave it if you're not going to open it up? Makes no sense," Wright said.

Wright was glad to hear the city likely won't have to pay a fine now.

"Cleveland is a great city, it has the potential to be an even greater city. They're building up downtown, and that right there put them back in debt," he said.

Councilmember Zack Reed has been pushing for the square to reopen to buses since the start.

"I'm just happy and overjoyed the federal government put pressure on us in the city of Cleveland and said, 'We gave X amount of money to allow those buses to come through to the hub,'" Reed said.

A study showed re-opening the square to buses will save $800,000 a year. It could also save bus riders precious time.

"We may not ride those buses every day, but there's some individuals here in the city of Cleveland that have to ride those buses," Reed said.

Mayor Frank Jackson has not responded to Cleveland 19 News about the plans.

A letter from the Federal Transit Administration, date stamped Feb. 17, gr anted a "final extension" until March 7 so the RTA and city of Cleveland could further discuss safety and traffic studies. The letter specifically mentioned Mayor Frank Jackson's two-prong test to reopen Public Square, showing that buses can operate safely through the square, and showing RTA would be financially adversely affected by the closure.

City officials have conceded that the closure would affect RTA's bottom line. Terrorism and safety were also brought up as concerns.

"The study came out like most of us knew it would. That a terrorist attack could still happen with the square opened or closed and that it was an inconvenience to the ridership," Reed said.

The FTA states that if the square reopens, that would nullify the debt.

The FTA has said previously that the closure of Public Square to buses violated a federal gr ant agreement that awarded money to pay for the Euclid Corridor project, now known as the HealthLine.

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