The jersey barriers at Cleveland’s Public Square may finally come down in 2023. The square’s planners are looking to replace the barriers with bollards and to fix underlying damage on Superior Avenue next year.

Representatives from the city, the Group Plan Commission and the nonprofit LAND Studio presented their plans to the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s board of trustees on Tuesday. 

Work might not begin until the third quarter of next year, LAND Studio Associate Director Nora Romanoff told Signal Cleveland. Due to supply chain delays, it could take 16 to 20 weeks for an order of bollards to arrive.

“We really want to hit submit on that order and start the clock ticking on that long lead time,” she said.

The plan calls for replacing the unsightly jersey barriers along Superior with short poles known as bollards, creating a better-looking barrier between the square and the street that runs through it. In the middle of the square, Superior will narrow from four lanes to two, and a raised pedestrian crosswalk will connect the square’s north and south halves. 

Credit: Group Plan Commission, City of Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority

The bollards do the same job that jersey barriers do while being “a more graceful design element,” Romanoff said. Some will be fixed in place, while others with be removable for events on the square, she said.

The project is estimated to cost $3.4 million, according to an expense breakdown presented to the board. The Group Plan Commission, which oversaw the renovations at Public Square before the 2016 Republican National Convention, is coordinating the work. 

So far, the commission has raised nearly $3 million, CEO Sanaa Julien told the RTA board. That includes $1.5 million that Cleveland City Council approved in April. RTA is considering chipping in $500,000, which would cover the remaining expense.

RTA has agreed to stop sending buses through the square for 60 days to allow for construction. When the work is done, buses will resume their usual routes through the square along Superior. 

Cleveland, under former Mayor Frank Jackson, set up jersey barriers at the square in 2017 after bowing to pressure from the Federal Transit Administration to reopen Superior to bus traffic. Mayor Justin Bibb has supported removing the barriers. 

The barriers narrowed the drivable space on Superior, leading buses to stop on decorative pedestrian crossings that were not originally designed to bear the weight of a large idling vehicle, Romanoff said. The resulting damage to the street will also need to be fixed.

The RTA board’s committee of the whole on Tuesday gave the green light to a memorandum of understanding with the city and Group Plan Commission to pursue the project. The Cleveland City Planning Commission will review the plans Jan. 6. 

Government Reporter (he/him)
Nick joins us from the world of public radio. He has more than a decade experience covering politics and government in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. In 2021, he produced and hosted "After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor," an Ideastream Public Media podcast on the Cleveland mayoral race. He has also covered breaking news, opioid lawsuits and elections nationally for NPR.