RTA breaks ground on new Cedar-University Circle station

City and RTA officials, and their University Circle partners, break ground on the new station at the bottom of Cedar Hill.

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority broke ground on a new Cedar-University Red Line Rapid Station on Sept. 19. The station will replace the existing station at the bottom of Cedar Hill, making it fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The existing station was constructed in 1956, although the tunnel, platform and stairs were built in 1929. RTA upgraded the station in 2001 to meet minimum ADA requirements, but the station remains substandard and unappealing. Pedestrians transferring from bus to train or walking to their final destination must cross vast seas of pavement.

“This is the same station I used when I took the RTA to high school,” said Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley. “It is certainly time to do this project. It will improve ridership, encourage more bicycle and pedestrian traffic, and it may calm car traffic a bit through Cedar Fairmount. It will brighten and make the gateway to Cleveland Heights more inviting and respectable.”

The station was formerly known as the University Circle Rapid Station, but is being renamed because a planned station on Mayfield Road in Little Italy will be called the University Circle-Little Italy Red Line Rapid Station.

Cleveland Heights Council Member Mary Dunbar, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony, said, “The new RTA station was presented as a new, contemporary and impressive entry to Cleveland and University Circle. If you happen to be going east on Cedar Road, it's actually a new, more elegant prelude to the Heights—a better doorway either way.”

Construction is expected to take about 24 months and is slated to begin Oct. 1. Both the rapid station and the bus terminal will be located on the north side of Cedar Road, where only the rapid station now sits. The current site of the bus terminal will become green space. Both will remain open throughout construction, making the transition fairly seamless for RTA riders.

Car commuters, however, will not be so lucky. According to an RTA spokesperson, beginning the first week of October, one of three lanes heading up Cedar Hill, on the south side of Cedar Avenue, will be eliminated during construction. One of three downhill lanes on the north side will close on evenings and weekends. The schedule will vary. Commuters are advised to check www.riderta.com for updates.

"There aren't a lot of ways to get between Cleveland Heights and University Circle,” said Dunbar. “I think people will adjust if Cedar Glen gets too jammed, either finding other routes or getting an earlier or later start on their trip. During construction, people using Cedar Road from or into the Heights can help reduce traffic congestion by walking, biking, car pooling or taking public transportation."

The $18.5 million project is made possible by $14.2 million from the U. S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Authority, including a $10.5 million TIGER II (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant.

The existing University Circle rapid station is one of the highest transfer points within the RTA system, used by commuters going to and from University Circle, visitors to area institutions, and students from Case Western Reserve University, John Hay High School, the Cleveland School of the Arts, Cleveland Institute of Art and Cleveland Institute of Music. A long-range traffic study, funded in part by the Cleveland Foundation, determined future improvements to the area that would enhance commuting for pedestrians and bicyclists. The redesign of the rapid station and bus terminal are a part of this plan.

According to RTA, plans for the area include removing a significant amount of pavement at the intersection at the bottom of the hill, enabling safer conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists and better connectivity between park areas. The new station will feature “green” construction, with a glass-enclosed vestibule, to enable passengers to remain warm and dry while they are waiting for trains. A new elevator will make the station fully ADA compliant.

Peter Rogoff, an administrator with the Federal Transit Authority, said that public transportation “needs to be reliable, desirable and safe” and that this project will “improve the quality of life for working people.”

Chris Ronayne, director of University Circle Incorporated, said, “The University Circle area started as a transit-oriented development during the Progressive Era of the 1920s when Cleveland was in its heyday. Since 2005 University Circle has produced 1,000 jobs a year, and population has increased 17 percent. The next heyday is now! The next renaissance is now!”

“It makes the connection between Cleveland Heights and University Circle more comfortable and more attractive,” said Mayor Kelley. “A transportation center like this will enable University Circle and Cleveland Heights to do more together.”

Deanna Bremer Fisher

Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.

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Volume 5, Issue 10, Posted 2:06 PM, 09.25.2012