Governor Announces Plan to Get Innerbelt Bridge Completed by 2016

CLEVELAND — A plan to get the second of Cleveland’s Innerbelt Bridges back on track with its original construction timetable will involve a different approach according to Governor John Kasich.

Kasich visited the project’s construction site on Thursday morning and provided details on a plan to seek private money, not state funds, to demolish the existing bridge and build a new eastbound bridge.

The plan would seek out construction companies who would arrange their own financing of the project. The state would then pay back the construction company, over a number of years, after the bridge’s completion.

According to Kasich, this proposal would get the eastbound bridge completed by 2016, instead of a projected 2019 if state funds were solely used.

“Forget about what wouldn’t work yesterday,” said Kasich. “Because there was opposition to this. They didn’t like this idea, some people in the legislature. But you just push for it and that’s my job. And my job is to give them the freedom to develop new ideas.”

“People want to get there safe, and they want to get there quick, and that’s what we’re all about.  That’s the new paradigm for the Ohio Department of Transportation.  It’s not your grandpa’s ODOT,” said department director Jerry Wray.

In early June ODOT’s advisory committee met to discuss funding for the massive project and adjusted their figures on the proposed $1.6 billion shortfall. According to ODOT’s construction plans, with solely state funding, the eastbound bridge would be started in 2016 and completed three years later.

The westbound span of the bridge is well on the way to completion, with a scheduled opening in the fall of 2013.

ODOT says the current bridge, which is three years past its recommended lifespan, is set to be demolished upon the westbound bridge’s completion.

“That is our job is to look at the value of money, the value of the time, the congestion.  There’s enormous cost to people sitting in traffic, wasted fuel–that’s all a consideration, too,” Wray told Fox 8.

“Cleveland is on the move. It is rebuilding. We have to move people and things,” said Kasich. “If we think outside the box and have the courage to change, which is important for Ohio, we can continue to do very well.”

Weary commuters who are fed up with the project’s added congestion were relieved to hear the news.

“I’m very thrilled,” said Tremont business owner Erich Hooper, who said his neighborhood has been cut off since the construction started.  “We need more collaboration like this.  We need the private sector as well as the larger sectors to start to come together at the table to accomplish goals and projects around the state.”

(Fox 8 reporter Autumn Ziemba contributed to this report.)