(Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a multi-part series detailing Cleveland’s master plan to revitalize its historic downtown).Downtown Cleveland’s Inman Street, once a busy …
(Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a multi-part series detailing Cleveland’s master plan to revitalize its historic downtown).
Downtown Cleveland’s Inman Street, once a busy artery that channeled thousands of workers to and from their jobs at two Whirlpool plants located just off the thoroughfare, remains a busy street, but one where vehicles rush by on their way to mostly other destinations or tie up traffic as they navigate downtown to conduct business at various locations.
The city of Cleveland is hoping a "road diet" will change that.
During Monday’s meeting of the Cleveland City Council, the city’s long-awaited Downtown Revitalization Master Plan was unveiled, which proposes a reimagining of Cleveland’s historic downtown into a livable, walkable and memorable community.
City Manager Joe Fivas said the streetscape plan for Inman Street will be more pedestrian-friendly, encouraging tourism, as well as attracting residents who want to live downtown.
Currently, the city is working to acquire up to $25 million in BUILD grant funding from the Federal Highway Administration to embark on the massive streetscaping project for Inman Street.
The master plan proposes a new tree-lined streetscape design for Inman Street, with sidewalks, medians and roundabouts to facilitate traffic flow.
A key element of the plan includes reducing the number of lanes from four to three to slow traffic as it passes through downtown.
Although Inman Street will be less one lane, it will gain designated turn lanes separated by medians. As a result, drivers of vehicles wanting to make turns will no longer cause traffic to back up as they await a green light to allow them to make a turn.
Fivas noted that the streetscape design, which he referred to as a “road diet,” would be controversial.
He said WSP, U.S.A, the civil engineering consulting firm hired by the City Council, has conducted research regarding modifications to streets in similar cities.
“They have done quite a bit of research,” Fivas said. “The information they have found is that a lot of studies show that if you go from four to three lanes, it increases efficiency and safety.”
Fivas said he regularly receives emails informing him of accidents that take place often on Inman Street, including a situation where a pedestrian was seriously injured when they were hit by a vehicle.
“Not a week goes by we don’t have an accident on Inman street,” Fivas said. “Someone getting hit is not a good situation. If we want people downtown crossing Inman with their families, we need to ensure it is safer."
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “road diets” involve a reduction in the width or number of vehicular travel lanes, which reallocates space for other uses such as bicycle lanes, pedestrian crossing islands, left-turn lanes or parking. Safety and operational benefits for vehicles and pedestrians include:
• Decreasing vehicle travel lanes for pedestrians to cross;
• Providing room for a pedestrian crossing medians;
• Improving safety for bicyclists when bicycle lanes are added; and
• Reducing rear-end and side-swipe crashes, improving speed limit compliance, and decreasing crash severity when crashes do occur.
Additionally, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “for local businesses, a road diet can improve economic vitality by changing the corridor from a place that people "drive through" to one that they "drive-to."
USDOT also stated that with the "improved facilities, a motorist is more likely to park, walk around, visit restaurants or shops, and enjoy the setting, benefiting the economy and public safety of the neighborhood."
Doug Delaney, senior planning supervisor at WSP, also said slower vehicles will make downtown more pedestrian-friendly.
"It invites the opportunities for future development and possibilities for people to interact more with the existing businesses along the corridor," Delaney said. "The attempt overall is to have a very similar cohesive look with the paving and crosswalks and streetlights that tie the length of the corridor together."
The Inman Street streetscaping is planned to begin where a roundabout is to be located near Starbucks at the Village Green, through downtown and extending past the railroad bridge into East Cleveland. Two more roundabouts, one located just beyond the railroad bridge, will intersect Linden Avenue S.E., with another intersecting Gaut Street N.E. and Dooley Street S.E.
A similar project that took place on Cumberland Avenue in Knoxville resulted in increased investment.
“They narrowed it down to almost the same design,” Fivas said. “It’s generated millions in investment. It didn’t scare investors away.”
Paraphrasing the Urban Land Institute’s Ed McMahan, who recently spoke during a MainStreet Cleveland-sponsored event held at the Museum Center, Fivas said, “If we want a downtown for cars, then we need designs for cars; if we want it for people, then we need to design it for people.”
Fivas said design changes will result in more vehicle flow on Third Street and Central Avenue, which will help reduct traffic on Inman Street.
Implementation of the Downtown Master Plan will be critical in attracting new residents to Cleveland’s growing economy which threatens to produce more jobs than workers to fill them. As a result, city leaders are focusing efforts to transform the city’s downtown into a community that will be attractive to young professionals who desire to live in urban environments where there is plenty of housing, as well as restaurants and stores within walking distance from their residences.
During the unveiling of the master plan during Monday’s meeting of the city council, Fivas said it was critical for the city to embark on its initiative to redevelop downtown. He said the city's master plan was not just a project that will benefit current residents.
“This isn’t because we have some great mission that we want to redo downtown,” Fivas said. “It is an economic strategy we need to address. It keeps your tax dollars low because it keeps people and businesses moving here.”
Fivas said a state law prohibiting cities from annexing property in order to grow has led to a lack of availability of real estate within the city limits available for development. As a result, the city is turning its eye toward downtown, where there are properties and land ripe for residential and commercial development.
In Thursday's edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner, an examination of the city's Downtown Revitalization Master Plan's goals for constructing a sports center, hotels, amphitheater and green spaces will be reviewed.
To view videos of WSP, U.S.A.'s downtown revitalization master plan, visit https://vimeo.com/showcase/5879389.
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