The Euclid Corridor Project: Is the Honeymoon Over?

by Tom Reed
WMV Web News Cleveland
Story filed March 23, 2004

During all the time the Euclid Corridor Transportation Project was being developed, the plan was uniformly praised as a way to rehabilitate the grand old avenue, and to bring new life to downtown Cleveland. Few of the people most affected had anything negative to say about it. Now that it's about to become a reality, is the honeymoon over?

It is, if you accept the arguments of business owner Greg Pfister, president of Rossio & Pfister Fine Jewelry Inc. at 850 Euclid Avenue, on the third floor of the City Club Building. Pfister is sending letters to other members of the Downtown Merchants Association, and to newspapers and radio stations, expressing his opposition to the plan.

It's a little late to squeeze the toothpaste back into the tube. Groundbreaking is scheduled later this year on the Bus Rapid Transit project from Public Square to University Circle.

Pfister is so worried about the impact that he's thinking of moving his business out of downtown. In the near term, he fears that construction will create a real mess, and that it will take longer than three years. RTA has said that major work on the project will begin in the spring of 2005, and that it will be completed in December of 2007.

When the project is completed, Pfister thinks it will have the opposite of its intended goal of revitalizing Euclid Avenue. As he put it: "Where is there proof that reducing auto lanes and installing a bus lane is going to magically motivate more ridership thereby increasing an environment for business development in Cleveland and University Circle?"

RTA maintains that the project is more than just adding bus lanes, and that the new high-tech vehicles will attract more riders by offering faster and more frequent service.

Few business people have publicly criticized the plan. Last year, an official of Pierre's French Ice Cream Company told a radio station that reducing automobile traffic to one lane in each direction would cause serious problems, especially as it concerned trucking. Contacted recently, a company spokesman told us the company still has a negative view of the project, but has not taken a public stance. "We've made our views known to the appropriate people," he said.

The Downtown Merchants Association has not taken a survey of its members. Speaking for himself as an individual businessman, President Mike Lang says the construction is going to be disruptive, but he thinks the project is something that needs to be done. Lang, owner of M. Lang Executive Attire at 1275 Euclid Avenue, says RTA has been a good friend of the merchants group, and "will try to work with us" to minimize the disruption.

It's probably safe to say that most Clevelanders have given the Euclid Corridor project little consideration, pro or con. When construction equipment begins to tear up the street, people may begin paying attention.

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Copyright 2004 Tom Reed