ODOT's Last Explanation - Bicyclists and Pedestrians Were On "Double Secret Probation"

Now we finally know why ODOT opposes efforts to create a bike/pedestrian path on their proposed $450 million innerbelt bridge.  In their mind, it was all settled years before the public starting to convey their desires, long before ODOT solicited public input for their Environmental Impact Statement at the Greek Orthodox Church, long before the public hearings, way, way long before the federal government's Record of Decision.  All of that was just for show.  To ODOT's way of thinking, it was already settled. Except for one thing...the public still gets to express its desires about how their tax dollars are spent.

Perhaps you remember John Belushi and "Animal House," in which they were finally expelled for violating Dean Wormer's "Double Secret Probation," rules they didn't even know existed? ODOT is Dean Wormer and that's their argument. Apparently, there was some letter between ODOT and the Federal Highway Administration, in which ODOT said “there are safe alternatives for bikes and pedestrians, there is insufficient demand and it will cost too much.” This letter was outside the formal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Draft EIS, which ignored the presentations of cyclists and residents at public hearings (25% of Cleveland residents don’t have cars, with higher rates in neighborhoods around the proposed bridge). FHWA’s boss, the President’s Secretary of Transportation has said they support bike and pedestrian opportunities, but ODOT still points to the federal government as the impediment. The cycling population is growing in Cleveland, apparently at a rate higher than the national average. Cyclists and pedestrians have demonstrated ODOT’s “alternatives” are longer and more dangerous and the cost is unknown at this point, but was less than the margin of error when ODOT first proposed bridges with a range of construction costs.

The innerbelt bridge is intended to last for fifty years or so, but ODOT has refused consider a bike/pedestrian path (see gcbl.org/innerbelt), protected by distance and concrete, to run alongside. Thirty communities have figured out how to have cyclists, pedestrians and motorists benefit from taxpayer-funded investment. Some of these are breath-takingly attractive, with a scenic overlook visitors travel hundreds of miles to enjoy. ODOT’s explanation in refusing bikes is simply “we don’t have to.”

There is an “Old ODOT” way of thinking, which is to support cars and trucks, and the new of thinking, which focuses on connecting neighborhoods and helping people get where they want to go. The new way of thinking really isn’t understood at ODOT and, thus far, we haven’t convinced them to change. But, to quote John Belushi in Animal House, "it's not over! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? No, it's not over 'til we say it's over!"