By Nicole Hennessy
The trolley tracks are paved over now and have been for a long time. Clifton Boulevard is an old street lined with old homes, well-maintained.
And though the Lakewood Historical Society and state historical organizations have been involved to insure its historic value is protected, the busy street will soon include new additions that those involved believe will improve public transit.
Since 2007, plans for enhancements have been discussed by Lakewood and Cleveland, plotting together to improve lighting, landscaping and the efficiency of mass transit.
Two years later, in 2009, RTA received federal stimulus funds to be used for the Clifton Boulevard Transportation Enhancement Program, which many organizational and city leaders presented to the public one last time before drafting a final plan last Wednesday at the Woman’s Club Pavilion in Lakewood Park.
Over the past year and a half, the project has undergone several changes. For example, as originally planned, there will not be a median installed down Clifton on the Lakewood side. In Cleveland, however, there will be a median. That’s because the homes on that side of Clifton have wider tree lawns, so the city can justifiably widen the roads. That is not the case in Lakewood. As a result, the proposed median could only be four feet wide, so any trees planted within it would likely not survive.
A resident who feared a median would take away from the history of the boulevard asked Mayor Michael Summers if he planned to reconsider the addition of one at any point, to which the mayor replied simply, “I won’t.”
New features residents will find along Clifton will be brick bus stations with proposed GPS arrival systems and safety videophones. And though the number of stops and shelters will be reduced by seven headed westbound and six eastbound, RTA Director Joe Calabrese is confident that commuting time will decrease, claiming less stopping means getting riders where they need to be more quickly. Also, during designated hours, the curb lanes will function as bus-only lanes, allowing the buses to stop and go more easily. Comparing it to an assembly line with fewer processes, he said quicker service and more reliable arrival times will increase ridership, adding that a more efficient system will likely draw new riders. The reasoning behind this is that better service increases demand.
Lakewood will contribute $50,000 to the project. Once the new shelters are built, RTA will be responsible for any maintenance and upkeep needed.
Throughout the meeting Wednesday, residents raised questions regarding cycling and bike racks and expressed concern over fewer bus stops. Repeatedly, they were encouraged to write down their concerns to be considered before the final plans go through.
The RTA is scheduled to approve the final version April 16 of next year, at which point, Calabrese said, the project could be completed in as little as one year.
Residents were assured that any driveway aprons dismantled during construction would promptly be repaired, and that disturbances resulting from construction would be minimal.
“You need good infrastructure to provide good service,” Calabrese said.
Anyone with concerns or questions are encouraged to contact the city of Lakewood at 216-521-7580 or the RTA’s planning team leader, Valerie Webb, at 216-566-5260. All project information can be found at www.enhanceclifton.com.