A Strongsville Republican state representative has withdrawn an amendment to the Ohio transportation budget that would have nixed Cleveland’s plan to build bicycle lanes down the middle of Superior Avenue.
The amendment would have blocked cities of Cleveland’s size from bisecting major roads with bike lanes — jeopardizing the city’s $25 million plans for Superior, which Cleveland City Council recently approved.
News of state Rep. Tom Patton’s amendment set off a lobbying blitz by Cleveland leaders. Mayor Justin Bibb, Council President Blaine Griffin, Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne, the Greater Cleveland Partnership and others submitted testimony against the amendment ahead of a hearing on the transportation budget Wednesday.
Grace Gallucci, the head of regional planning group the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, trekked to Columbus to defend the bikeway. There, Patton questioned her about the city’s plans.
Late on Wednesday, Patton said the conversation with Gallucci assuaged his concerns about the project.
“After our discussions surrounding concerns of routes for first responders and other concerned parties, we have been reassured that through the development of the plan, these concerns will be addressed,” Patton said in a news release, as reported by the Statehouse News Bureau’s Karen Kasler. “This is what the legislative process is about, to ensure we bring leaders to the table to discuss issues impacting residents, our communities and beyond.”
Patton’s district includes a slice of Cleveland’s West Side. At an Ohio House Finance Committee hearing earlier on Wednesday, he asked Gallucci about putting to Cleveland voters whether they’d rather see the city’s $5 million contribution to the bikeway spent on snowplows instead.
“I have a few people question the idea that if they put it to a vote of the people of the city of Cleveland, whether they would like to have $5 million worth of a bike lane down the middle of a major thoroughfare versus a curb lane, as an example, on the same street,” he said, “as compared to buying maybe 40 more snowplows so that the snow that never gets taken off the side streets in Cleveland because of the lack of snowplows, would be a better investment.”
Patton said that the trucking industry had “grave concerns” about being able to navigate Superior in the future. He also said he had heard from firefighters who worried the bikeway would obstruct trucks turning out of a downtown fire station.
Gallucci replied that the designs are still in the works and could be reviewed to make sure that they accommodate the fire department’s needs.
“The designs are not completed, so I think it would be premature to say that the fire station would be impeded by that design,” she said.
Bibb and Griffin did not appear at the hearing, but in their letter, they wrote that the amendment infringed on cities’ ability to make their own transportation decisions.
“The provision would cripple a project strongly supported by the community that will re-imagine a road network offering transportation choice connecting neighborhoods, promoting economic growth, building climate-resilient communities, and encouraging healthier outcomes for residents,” they wrote.