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Cleveland: Tentative Innerbelt Bridge funding plan announced

6:56 PM, Feb 10, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND - Congressional, state, and local leaders have announced a possible funding plan to speed completion of the Innerbelt Bridge project.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich said," The state has announced it's moving to the top of consideration and the Federal government recognized the project needs to be funded."

Kucinich claims he had a brief discussion about the bridge with President Obama, before and after the State of the Union and went on to talk with Transportation Dept. officials.

Rep. Steve LaTourette ,who is on a key committee for transportation said, " The stars have aligned in our favor. We happen to be in a Presidential election year and some of you may have noticed Ohio is important."

The state had said there would not be money to start building the second bridge of the two span project until 2023. The announcement sparked anger from Northeast Ohio officials.

Democrats, Republicans and Congressmen, state and city officials are all working together on this.

"I'm confident people are working in a non-political way..That's the way it's supposed to work,"  said Mayor Frank Jackson, who met with a Deputy Transportation Secretary.

Some money would come from a new Federal highway bill expected to be passed soon. Congress has not passed such a bill since 2009. Ohio would ge hundred of millions dollars more a year because of an expected twelve percent increase.

Projects all over the state were delayed because of inadequate funding and excessive political promises.

The state is also  seeking a federal "Tiger" grant for project funding. . That's a transportation stimulus program. The state will apply for all $350 million of the cost and hope to receive something.

The rest of the funding could come from leasing 57 rest stops on non-interstate highways. Congress must approve that plan. 

If all the pieces fall into place the completed two-span bridge project would open in 2018. That's still two years later than originally planned but officials say they will continue working towards obtaining additional funding to allow the bridge to be completed by its original date of 2016.

The project involves replacing the aging Innerbelt bridge with two separate bridges, on heading each direction.

The bridge is Cleveland's lifeline. The project is deemed critical to help expected new visitors get to new projects downtown, including a casino, the Medical Mart and new convention center.

Work continues uninterrupted. ODOT says the work is on schedule.  It says 35 days of  weather caused delays can easily be made up.

Monday unions, city leaders and Tremont residents will hold a rally telling ODOT, "Finish the Work."

ODOT Director Jerry Wray said, "There's nothing I'd rather do than ribbons and groundbreakins. If we have the money , we'll build it."

Some accused Governor John Kasich of announcing the shortfall to increase support for possibly leasing the turnpike. He's promised to use a portion of any turnpike proceeds for transportatioin projects.    Kasich denied any political ploy.

Officials say they will continue working until the original 2016 project completion date is restored.

WKYC-TV

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