Four regional trail projects advance

Cuyahoga Greenways trails plan map.

Four regional trail projects in Cuyahoga County were advanced in their planning to either study their feasibility or to develop detailed engineering and environmental documentation so they can be eligible for federal construction dollars. A close-up of the southeast/lower-right portion of the map appears below (Metroparks). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM

Cleveland Metroparks get $950,000 to make projects shovel-ready

Cleveland Metroparks today announced it was awarded $950,000 by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to advance the planning and design of four regional transportation projects that encompass 5.7 miles of trail and bicycle connections on Cleveland’s East Side and in the city of Euclid. Three of the four projects impact Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood and the southeast side of the city.

The projects were awarded federal funding through the USDOT’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants program and will support an overall $1.5 million planning effort that includes local funding from Cleveland Metroparks and the City of Cleveland. The funding request was submitted last May. One project, the Jennings Towpath Connector south of Steelyard Commons, was not approved for funding.

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The four projects in the RAISE award are derived from the Cuyahoga Greenways Plan, a countywide trail and bikeway master plan that was completed in late 2019. The plan’s development was funded through the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency’s (NOACA) Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative (TLCI) program and the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission, the project sponsor. The award is a direct result of collaboration between Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland and Cleveland Metroparks through the Cuyahoga Greenway Partners to advance several priorities in the ambitious Cuyahoga Greenways Plan.

“We’re thrilled to advance these projects on Cleveland’s East Side that will have significant local and regional impacts on the region,” said Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman said in a written statement. “I want to thank Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland for their work through the Cuyahoga Greenways Partners to prioritize these critical gaps, as well as thank the U.S. Department of Transportation for supporting our efforts to make Cleveland a more equitable and connected city.”

Southeast side of Cleveland showing Slavic Village and its regional trails.

A close-up of the southeast side of Cleveland and the location of three of the four trail projects impacted by today’s awarding of federal funding to advance their planning (Metroparks).

Slavic Village Development Corp. Executive Director Chris Alvarado said he and others have been trying to get federal funds to undertake design and engineering for these projects for a long time. Without having the plans and environmental clearances completed, the Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and others could not apply for federal construction dollars.

“We’ve been trying to get additional matching funds for the NOACA funds for YEARS,” Alvarado wrote to NEOtrans, with emphasis on the word ‘years’ capitalized in his text.

ODOT has assisted with construction of segments of the Downtown Connector, most notably the section between Pershing and Broadway avenues, and are working with Slavic Village Development Corp. on the section between Fleet and Pershing avenues that would be impacted by the widening of the breakdown lanes on Interstate 77 sometime in 2024, he noted.

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“Basically, this is an important step to not only safely connecting Broadway/Slavic Village to downtown, but opening up the entire southeast side to the regional trail network, something that has been sorely lacking while trail connections abound on the west side,” Alvarado added.

Towpath Trail along Jennings Road near Steelyard Commons in Cleveland.

Along Jennings Road, just south of Steelyard Commons and the Harvard-Denison Bridge, one of the last sections of the Towpath Trail was completed. But just south of here exists another gap — the Jennings-Towpath Connector to link up with the Treadway Creek Trail (Canalway Partners).

One planning effort to fill a trail gap on the West Side wasn’t funded — the Jennings-Towpath Connector. It would have filled a mere 0.2-mile missing link between the Towpath Trail along Jennings Road to the Treadway Creek Trail which connects Harmody Park to Crestline Avenue.

However, today’s award advances four priority trail projects for implementation by developing full design documents for two projects and moving the remaining two through the feasibility stage. Collectively named the RAISE Cleveland Bicycle & Pedestrian Planning project, the awarded application encompasses the following projects:

Slavic Village-Downtown Connector Phase 2 North

Awarded funds for the full design of 2.2 miles of bicycle connection from East 14th Street to the intersection of Broadway & Dille Avenue. It will connect the Slavic Village neighborhood and completed Morgana Run Trail to the Towpath Trail through Cleveland Metroparks Washington and Ohio & Erie Canal reservations along with Downtown Cleveland. It will also connect to the all purpose trail built as part of ODOT’s Innerbelt Project along Orange Avenue that connects to East 14th and on to the East 9th Street Extension.

Morgana Run-Booth Ave. Extension

Awarded funds for the full design of a 0.8 mile all purpose trail to link the completed Morgana Run Trail to the Mill Creek Falls area of Garfield Park Reservation. It will also connect to the Warner Road bike lanes and Mill Creek Connector Trail, as well as the future Slavic Village Downtown Connector via the Morgana Run Trail.

Multi-purpose trail along the new Opportunity Corridor Boulevard.

One of the most significant additions to the Cuyahoga Greenways Plan Priority Network was the trail along the south (left) side of the Opportunity Corridor Boulevard, shown here under construction in early October over the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s rapid transit tracks. The trail could be linked to the proposed Slavic Village-Downtown Connector Trail near the Tri-C Campus District-East 34th rapid transit station (TacoSlayer).

Iron Court to Opportunity Corridor

Awarded funds for feasibility-level planning a proposed 0.7 mile connection from the western terminus of Opportunity Corridor Trail at East 55th Street, along the south side of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority tracks, to the proposed Slavic Village-Downtown Connector Trail near Iron Court/Broadway area.

Euclid Creek Greenway Phase 2 North

Awarded funds for feasibility-level planning of a proposed two-mile bicycle connection between the lower Euclid Creek Reservation to its lakefront portion. The proposed connection would build on Cleveland Metroparks first phase of the Euclid Creek Greenway that will connect Euclid Creek Parkway to Euclid Avenue that will be constructed in 2022.

Projects for RAISE funding were evaluated by the USDOT on merit criteria including safety, environmental sustainability, quality of life, economic competitiveness, state of good repair, innovation and partnership, the Cleveland Metroparks statement said. Project applications that demonstrated improvements to racial equity, reduce impacts of climate change and create good-paying jobs were prioritized.

RAISE, formerly known as the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) program and Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, is a highly competitive program and $30 million was available nationwide for the planning and engineering of projects in 2021 through the RAISE program. Significant additional funding is available for construction of a wide variety of transportation projects, but only after the required planning steps have been completed.

Cleveland Metroparks previously received a TIGER award in 2016 for the Re-Connecting Cleveland: Pathways to Opportunity Project, which supported construction of the Red Line Greenway, Whiskey Island Trail, Wendy Park Bridge, and the Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway and Canal Basin Park Connectors.

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