Economic and Community Issues Surrounding the Inner Belt Bridge Project in Cleveland, OH

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When projects are planned it is sometimes difficult to find a balance between costs and benefits in an ethical manner. This task becomes even more difficult with public projects because the benefits are not always realized by the same group who bears the cost. This is the case with the inner belt bridge project facing the Cleveland community. The current bridge is close to fifty years old and deteriorating at an alarming rate. Some of the bridges steel members have rusted to the point that they can no longer support the legal load outlined by state guidelines. (5, 3) Public fear has been heightened due to a bridge collapse in 2007 in Minnesota, killing 13 people and injuring over 140. (2) Many people feel that cost should not be an issue when it comes to public safety. As engineers, we understand that a balance must be found between the costs and benefits, including safety. In this day and age, the government is investing billions of dollars into construction projects to revive the economy. Questions like where the funding should be pulled from, how and when repairs and replacements will take place, and how safety will be guaranteed need to be answered. It is a challenge to design a public project, constantly scrutinized by the media, which can answer all of these issues. According to ODOT (The Ohio Department of Transportation), the inner belt project involves two main steps. The first is to construct a new bridge for westbound traffic to the north of the existing bridge. The second step is to rebuild the current bridge for eastbound traffic. Funding for this project, estimated to cost over $400 million dollars, will be provided in part by ODOT, as well as close to $200 million in federal stimulus money. (1,3) ... ... middle of paper ... ... time of action. ODOT should continue with their current bridge plans, but add several modifications. The Cleveland community is very concerned with current ramp closure plans. ODOT has the responsibility to work with city officials to determine the best compromise. Some exits, like the Prospect and Carnegie Avenue ramps, are vital to local businesses and should not be closed. On the other hand, the city should compromise on the proposed demolition of historically significant structures. Most of these structures serve no physical purpose other than the fact to stand testament to Cleveland’s history. As long as ODOT continues to consider the many economic issues in this very fragile time and works with the community to find the best alternatives, the inner belt project will be a success that will both improve transportation and the greater Cleveland economy.

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