Cleveland, RTA moves forward with plans to keep Public Square closed to buses

CLEVELAND – When Public Square reopened in June after a 15-month, $50 million renovation, it included bus shelters and traffic signals along a newly-paved portion of Superior Avenue that was meant to serve as a bus lane through the heart of the square.

The city of Cleveland announced Tuesday plans to keep the roadway closed permanently.

James Corner, the architect who designed the Public Square renovation, said the design was always intended to be flexible.

“We’re thrilled, of course. It allows the square to be more complete as a public space for people,” he said. “It was designed to anticipate that if ever Superior Avenue was to be closed that it could easily be retrofitted to be a square.”

He said there are a variety of options for the space, including retaining the street as-is, removing the street to make it a hard-scape, or adding greenspace and plantings, or other amenities.

“For people to feel that it’s safe and secure and open and flexible and complete as a public space, I think closing Superior to vehicles is a great move forward.”

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said despite the lack of a formal survey, he felt general sentiment has favored permanent closure of the roadway to maintain a united square.

“There was always a conversation about keeping Public Square as a unified square without any traffic going through it. Once the ribbon cutting occurred that conversation intensified,” he said.

After months of meetings, RTA got on board with the change. The 900 buses that travel Superior each day must continue circling the square.

Joe Calabrese, RTA’s general manager and CEO, said he believes the transit authority can more than make up for the closure by adding efficiencies along other parts of Superior, similar to the traffic signal preemption and bus lane along Euclid Avenue.

“We, from RTA's perspective, didn't want that to be an operational drain on us or our customers, so if we could accomplish the best of both worlds, which we think we can, why not do that?” he said.

RTA and city officials said they would spend the next 10 to 14 days developing a detailed plan to present to the Federal Transit Authority, which must approve the change because it’s part of Cleveland’s transit zone.

Jackson could not provide a timetable on how long the approval process could take or an estimated cost for the change and said design plans had not yet been developed.