Euclid Corridor Project: Looking Forward and Back

by Tom Reed
WMV Web News Cleveland
Story filed January 2, 2007

Two years from now the Euclid Corridor Transportation Project will become a reality, with a new generation of buses whisking passengers from Public Square to University Circle and beyond. Mike Schipper, the RTA's deputy general manager for engineering and project management, says the expected completion date is December 31, 2008.

The completion date has been a moving target since the project was first announced. I have been following the project for six years, with almost a dozen stories on the Reed's Read segment of our web site, most of which are still available in our archives. The first article was written in May 2000, when the plan was to use trolleybuses, a compromise from the original concept of a rail system. The closing sentence was, "If all goes according to plan, you can look for trackless trolleys in downtown Cleveland by 2003."

A year later ("Pulling the Plug", May 15, 2001) RTA had scrapped the trolleybus idea in favor of what was called Bus Rapid Transit. These would not be ordinary buses, but 60-foot articulated (bending in the middle) vehicles that would be environmentally friendly, with all sorts of high tech features. They would travel in exclusive bus lanes in the median, with automobile traffic relegated to one lane in each direction.

By the time of our next report ("Going With the Flow", June 28, 2001), the completion date had been pushed back to 2006. That segment also explained why the new buses would have to have doors on both the left and right sides. The project continued to evolve for the next couple of years, and 2007 was the new completion date. News coverage was fairly limited because nothing much was happening that the public could see. There was much praise and very little criticism of the plan.

That didn't begin to change until early 2004 ("Is the Honeymoon Over?", March 23, 2004) when some business people began to realize how much the project could affect them. We concluded at the time "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."

They're paying attention now, with construction disrupting traffic and businesses on several stretches of the street. Some businesses have been forced to close, and others are suffering. The Plain Dealer reports that Cleveland's City Council has agreed to guarantee $250,000 in loans from local banks to small stores that have lost business due to the work.

Will it all be worth it? We'll have to wait and see. But even critics of the plan have to admit that Euclid Avenue - once the home of major department stores and mansions of millionaires - has deteriorated enormously over the past several years, and that if nothing is done the street will be downhill all the way. So try to visualize a future Euclid Avenue, rebuilt and attractively landscaped. Modern buses, operating at five-minute intervals during peak periods, will carry passengers to Playhouse Square, Cleveland State University, the Cleveland Clinic, and to the businesses that survive. The project is a $200 million gamble. Let's hope it will bring a big payoff, once we get through the growing pains.

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Copyright 2006 Tom Reed