Innerbelt Bridge Setback: Board Scraps Part of Project

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CLEVELAND— Another setback for a new downtown Innerbelt Bridge. The project may not be completed for more than a decade.

Construction crews continue to work, building a new, five-lane Innerbelt Bridge to take Interstate 90 over the Cuyahoga River downtown.

Under the original ODOT plan, once it was finished, crews would tear down the current span, which has reached its life-expectancy, and re-build it.

That would have meant two new bridges... one devoted to eastbound traffic, the other for westbound commuters.

"There's gotta be money there, I mean, they said there was money there in the first place and there's not money there now? I think it's a bunch of crap," said Tom Kowalski, who manages a business in Tremont.

Tuesday, an advisory board to ODOT agreed to scrap the second and third phases of the project.

That means the new bridge will still be built, but replacing the current one could be on hold for ten years, although the decaying bridge might not last that long.

ODOT said rising construction costs and a decrease in money from gasoline taxes forced them to cut the project short.

Cleveland planning director Bob Brown said the project delay will be harmful to the Cleveland region. He said it will create more traffic congestion at a time more attractions are being built downtown, including the aquarium, the convention center and the new casino.

"Finish the job, you promised a fully functioning bridge by 2016 and we fully expect that you're gonna honor that," said Cory Riordan, executive director of the TremontWest Corporation.

Business leaders and residents in the Tremont neighborhood said the bridge is the lifeline to their community.

Some have created buttons, started a letter writing campaign and created a Facebook page.

"In the morning I see the traffic all the way up from Fulton Road, all the way downtown and 176 is congested all the way to Spring Road. They need both sides," said Kowalski.

"We end up going downtown through Lakewood because she goes to daycare in Lakewood, so we take the Shoreway, which is never really bad," said Tremont resident Hannah Singerman.

"There's nothing that stops investment in its tracks like indecision, and not knowing what the future holds, so we're very concerned about what's happening," said Riordan.

ODOT said the public can comment on the plan over the next 45 days.

A final vote will be taken in the spring.

Officials said only if it's safe enough, the current Innerbelt Bridge could still be used, even after the new one opens.

Cleveland city officials said they are working with ODOT and leaders in Washington to see if there's any federal funding that can keep the project on track.