CLE faces $12 million fine; countdown is on over reopening Public Square to bus traffic

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — The city of Cleveland is about to face a huge fine for violating an agreement with the federal government.

In one week, the city will either reopen Superior through Public Square to bus traffic or face a $12 million fine.

It’s been an issue for months.

When the newly-renovated square reopened in June, it remained closed to bus traffic. But the Federal Transit Administration said the city of Cleveland violated a 2004 agreement and RTA must repay $12 million.

The whole goal of rebuilding Public Square was to make it more usable. There are diametrically opposed opinions in the city on whether that has been achieved.

A group gathered before last night’s city council meeting hoping to sway Mayor Frank Jackson’s decision. He has argued that there is a major issue to consider which wasn’t as much of a concern when they made the deal for the federal money back in 2004: potential terrorist attacks.

He previously said leaving the square open was “irresponsible” and would increase the risk of terrorist attacks.

Earlier this month, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority released the findings of traffic studies.

“Opening Superior Avenue to GCRTA usage will reduce the operational risk to GCRTA operations, pedestrians and motor vehicles around the perimeter roadway. The listed pedestrian crossing safety mitigations for the Superior Avenue center block pedestrian crossing should be implemented,” a report from K&J Safety and Security Consulting Services said. It also concluded “terrorism vulnerabilities exist whether Superior Avenue is open or closed.”

Another study determined that closing the street through Public Square would increase RTA’s annual operating cost by more than $805,000.

The advocacy group, Clevelanders for Public Transit, filed a Title 6 complaint Monday, alleging that it unfairly targets African-Americans who rely heavily on public transportation.

Continuing coverage here.