Residents prefer avenue to boulevard for Cedar-Fairmount
Consultants presented three options for a potential redesign of the Cedar-Fairmount business district at a public meeting on Sept. 18 at the Cleveland Heights Community Center. Option A would leave the current footprint of Cedar Road and the sidewalks. Option B would expand the sidewalks on both the north and south sides, creating the feel of a grand avenue. Option C would place a median down the center of Cedar Road, providing a safe stopping place for pedestrians crossing the busy street. Residents broke into three groups to evaluate each option. When the entire group reconvened, Option B seemed to be the clear winner.
The city of Cleveland Heights has retained City Architecture, Inc., an architectural firm known for its streetscape plans in urban environments, and Michael Baker, Jr. Inc., an engineering and consulting firm, to assess existing conditions and evaluate opportunities to enhance the Cedar-Fairmount commercial district.
Funding for the study is provided by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) through its Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative, which helps existing communities in Northeast Ohio obtain federal funding and technical assistance for planning transportation projects that strengthen community livability.
Both options B and C would put Cedar Road on a diet. Option B would reduce the number of lanes from six to five, with two drive lanes in either direction and a fifth lane, on the north, for unrestricted on street parking. Option C would also reduce the number of lanes to five, two in either direction. One of the north bound lanes would allow on street parking only during nonpeak times; the middle lane would be a planted median and turn lane. Under Option C, when cars are parked at the curb lane, only one lane would be available for through traffic.
As one of the main arteries connecting east side commuters to University Circle and downtown Cleveland, the area needs to handle a lot of cars. Some residents expressed concern that eliminating lanes would stall traffic flow and create a headache for commuters.
Coordinating the four traffic lights that currently exist in the district would improve traffic flow. This could likely be accomplished without changing the configuration of the lanes. More trees and other street amenities could be added to enhance the pedestrian experience. Utilities could also be coordinated to decrease the number of power lines and poles, thus reducing visual clutter and removing obstacles to pedestrian movement. However, Option A would not address the safety issues pedestrians face while trying to cross the street. Nor would it enhance the sense of place of the Cedar-Fairmount neighborhood, residents concluded.
"Although Option C would address pedestrian safety, it would make the north and south sides seem even farther apart than they do today," says resident Hugh Fisher. "I live on a boulevard. It's beautiful, but I don't know my across the street neighbors. I can't even see them."
Both options B and C expand the sidewalks on the north and south sides of Cedar Road, which are currently 9'6" wide. But Option B provides the largest increase in sidewalk space to the north side, which needs it the most. Under Option B, the northern sidewalk increases to 13' 6" and the southern sidewalk increases to 11' 6". Option C increases both sidewalks to 12' on each side. Wider sidewalks would provide more opportunity for social interaction, outdoor dining and public activities, such as the Discover Cedar Fairmount Festival which is held each August.
Both options B and C provide for a median at the top of Cedar Hill which would act as a gateway to the district. And, both allow for the planting of more trees. While Option C's median would provide a stopping point for pedestrians as they cross the street, Option B would provide "bump-outs" at intersections to shorten the crossing distance signifcantly. The dedicated on street parking of Option B would provide cyclists additional room to navigate the district safely.
The city of Cleveland Heights is still seeking feedback on the three options. The Sept. 18 meeting will air on Channel 20 from Oct. 6 through 19 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. daily. View maps of all three options at www.heightsobserver.org and post your comments on the Observer's online forum.
The next public meeting will take place in early 2009.
Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights, a Cedar-Fairmount resident and a member of the Cedar-Fairmount Traffic Study Committee.