Planning for Eastside Greenway advances
A recently concluded study highlights the potential for a network of bicycle and pedestrian facilities linking the City of Cleveland’s east side with 19 other municipalities, including Cleveland Heights and University Heights and all of their neighboring cities. The Eastside Greenway, as the proposed network is known, would increase connectivity in eastern Cuyahoga County and enable greater access to active transportation and recreation. The study’s soon-to-be-released final report will include infrastructure recommendations tailored to major routes and amenities, and a strategy for design and implementation.
Many Eastside Greenway trail segments already exist in east side cities but important connections between the segments are lacking. Linking the existing segments through a series of on- and off-road connectors would provide greater bicycle and pedestrian access to employment centers, public transportation and parks, and would provide recreational, economic and health-related benefits.
One of the first improvements could accompany a planned resurfacing of Noble Road in Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland sometime in the next few years. In a scenario that would be fine-tuned as the resurfacing project draws nearer, the four-lane street, which is reduced to two lanes to accommodate parking in some commercial areas, would be transformed into a street with two protected bike lanes, two through-traffic lanes and a left-turning lane in residential areas. In commercial areas, two through-traffic lanes would share the right-of-way with two bike lanes and on-street parking on both sides of the street.
The proposed improvements to Noble Road, which would turn a bicycle-unfriendly street into one that bicyclists would seek out, while also making the street more pleasant and predictable for motorists, could eventually link to recommended improvements on Euclid Avenue. The study calls for adding protected bike lanes—possibly, in part, in a mid-street “cycle-track” configuration—to Euclid Avenue between Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and East 222nd Street. The new stretch of bike-friendly Euclid Avenue would connect to the existing bike lanes that run on Euclid from East 105th Street to Playhouse Square. The Euclid Avenue improvements would take longer to complete and most likely would not all be put in place at the same time.
The Eastside Greenway planning process, a good example of planning at a regional scale, was guided by a steering committee consisting of representatives of the 20 participating municipalities and advisory members from major regional organizations, such as the Ohio Department of Transportation, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, Cleveland Metroparks, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), and was further informed by 12 public meetings held between September 2014 and May 2015.
The study, which grew out of an idea that emerged at Cleveland State University in 2012, was funded primarily by a grant obtained through NOACA and was jointly led by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission and LAND studio, with SmithGroupJJR as lead planning consultant. The study’s final recommendations include 10 near-term priority projects, including the Noble Road project, which would dramatically improve transportation connectivity within the study area. These are accompanied by recommendations for three long-term, transformative priority projects and 11 of lesser priority. These findings were presented at a final public meeting in July 2015.
The focus of the Eastside Greenway project will now move from planning to implementation. An article by Steven Litt in the Plain Dealer highlighted the importance of a concerted push to get the network built, and Glenn Coyne, executive director of the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission, stated that “continuing the momentum is really critical.” Planner Neal Billetdeaux, of SmithGroupJJR, noted that the municipalities that make up the Eastside Greenway should officially endorse the project. “It would bring a lot more validity to the plan,” he said, “and it could help with fundraising.” The project has already received significant positive feedback.
Nancy Boylan is a project director at LAND studio.