Public Square Bollard Project to Replace Jersey Barriers Now Estimated at $3.5 Million

The Group Plan Commission proposes removable bollards of this sort on Public Square. - Screenshot / RTA Board of Trustees
Screenshot / RTA Board of Trustees
The Group Plan Commission proposes removable bollards of this sort on Public Square.

The all-in budget for a project to replace the "temporary" Jersey barriers on Public Square with a system of removable bollards is now $3.5 million. According to the project managers at the Group Plan Commission, the nonprofit that manages Public Square, the scope of work will also include repairing street damage on Superior Avenue sustained through five years of concentrated bus traffic.

The new all-in figure, disclosed Tuesday at a meeting of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) board of trustees, is $500,000 higher than the $3 million budget referenced in legislation currently under consideration by Cleveland City Council. If passed, that legislation would authorize the city to spend $1.5 million on the project and modify an existing contract with the Group Plan Commission to conduct the work.

Representatives from the Group Plan Commission outlined the project scope and provided additional details at Tuesday's meeting. They said that RTA will be asked to contribute $500,000 toward the project's funding goal.

"With the city's contribution, that would get us to $2 million," said Sanaa Julien, CEO of the Group Plan Commission. "And we are actively fundraising with proposals in market for the balance."

Julien said that the project budget takes into account a number of "nuances," not least the so-called "Covid premium" affecting the global supply chain. Julien said, nevertheless, that she expected the project to ultimately cost less than $3.5 million, and that the Group Plan Commission would use whatever remained for ongoing bollard maintenance and repairs, as well as other Public Square operational costs.

RTA's Deputy General Manager for Engineering, Mike Schipper, provided commentary on the project as well. He could hardly contain his disdain for the so-called "temporary measures" that have been in place on the Square since 2017, mandated by former Mayor Frank Jackson to assuage his debunked concerns about terrorism.

RTA has been working behind the scenes to come up with permanent solutions, Schipper said, because the jersey barriers have been an ongoing irritant for bus operations. They require time and money and cause disruption of service every time they're moved. Sanaa Julien said that it cost $15,000 to remove the barriers for St. Patrick's Day earlier this month, and that the Group Plan Commission incurred additional costs.

When Superior Avenue is closed through the Square, according to RTA COO Floun'say Caver, the system's on-time performance falls by five percent. 

"If we don't get out of downtown on time," he said. "We can never catch up west of the river. From an operational standpoint, the link between Superior Avenue and Public Square is tremendously important to our system."

Bearing that in mind, Schipper said that ideally, construction on Superior would take place in "one continuous activity" that would affect operations through the Square as briefly as possible, perhaps in a burst of work as short as four to six weeks.

Most of the bollards themselves, which have previously and erroneously been reported as "retractable" (including in this publication), will actually be removable, engineered by the local firm Osborn (pictured above). Due to the network of utilities underneath the Square, a retractable system would be impractical.

Nora Romanoff of LAND Studio, representing the Group Plan Commission, said that the option being considered for the eastern and western entrances to Superior on the Square is the RAPTOR system. That system would, in fact, be retractable, but has a much shallower installation below street level and would be optimal for event closures.  Temporary planters in the walkways would also be retrofitted with bollards.

"We are aware of the importance of continuity of design," said Romanoff. "I have a saying, I don't want this to look like 'old shoes on a new dress.' We want this to look like a park, not like a retrofit."

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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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