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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cleveland's Latest Eco-Friendly Project Lacks One Key Thing: Money

Posted By on Tue, Sep 6, 2011 at 4:00 PM


Cleveland may be on the verge of approving legislation that would require all future street construction to get friendlier to the environment — and especially to bicycle lovers.

It’s called the Complete and Green Streets initiative, and it’s winding its way to city council after a summer of committee debate.

“The bicycling community has been waiting for this for a long time,” says councilman Joe Cimperman.

Among the covered improvements would be increased bike lanes, bus-friendly upgrades to streets, and permeable pavement or cistern-like plantscapes that filter storm water before redirecting it into the soil.
The small problem, as always, will be paying for it. Only two U.S. cities — North St. Paul and Seattle — have mandated similar measures, and neither of them happens to be broke.

Cleveland’s proposal started at the mayor’s office, which left city council to figure out how exactly to finance all the extras. Federal money that goes to major reconstruction projects can’t be used for such green initiatives. Translation: One way or another, this one’s going on your tab, dear Clevelander.

“There was no real dialogue,” says councilman Matt Zone.

After a series of summer revisions, the proposal now caps spending at $1 million per project — which could be somewhat negligible for larger undertakings such as the $300 million Opportunity Corridor. As with most city projects, the law would involve rubbing nickels together and seeing what comes of it.

“People hear ‘complete streets,’ and they think every street is going to have a bike path, and that’s just not appropriate in some locations,” says Chris Bongorno, a member of the city’s Sustainable Transportation Action Team and a planner for University Circle Inc.

On the other hand, simply reducing storm-water runoff might save money from the start.
“We want to get this done before the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District starts fining us,” says Cimperman.

Council intends to pass the measure by the end of the month.

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