UPDATE (2/21, 10:20 a.m.):
RTA CEO and General Manager Joe Calabrese announced at a board meeting Tuesday morning that if all goes according to plan, buses will be allowed on Public Square at last by March 6, one day before the FTA's final deadline.
Buses were spotted, and so was Frank Jackson, on Public Square Monday morning in what were presumed to be safety tests.
It seems buses might finally be arriving on Public Square. If Jackson relents, and Superior is opened, the city and RTA will be spared a costly legal battle to determine who pays a substantial sum to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and the $50 million redesign of Public Square would at last officially
open as intended. The design concept, with exclusive bus lanes on Superior, has been prohibited from full actualization by a very stubborn Mayor.
The FTA, in a letter dated Feb. 17
, gave the RTA one final extension, until March 7, to open the Square or else pay the $12 million debt. That debt comes from a breach of contract in an earlier funding agreement, and was activated by Superior's closure. (The letter was provided to Scene by RTA and was reported first, natch, by GC at the PD.
Per usual, the FTA didn't mince words. In its summary of a meeting in D.C. earlier this month with Joe Calabrese, FTA Associate Administrator and Chief Financial Officer Robert Tuccillo painted the Mayor's position in the clearest possible terms:
"GCRTA also explained that it is concurrently in discussions with the City of
Cleveland to negotiate the reopening of Public Square to buses," Tuccillo wrote. "The FTA understands that the Mayor has stated that if the closure is causing an adverse financial impact to GCRTA and buses may operate safely within the redesigned Public Square, he would reopen it; this would cure the breach of its Full Funding Grant Agreement with the FTA."
Though RTA has demonstrated an operational and financial burden, and a safety study concluded that terrorism would be as much of a threat if Superior were open as it is when it's closed, the "potential threat" of terrorism has been Jackson's last gasp in this protracted and completely unnecessary saga.
Here's hoping Jackson gets the assurances he needs today. Most of us are feeling a lot like the FTA's Robert Tuccillo, who wrote: "We look forward to bringing this matter to a close soon."
Twitter evidence from this morning: