This month construction crews began work on the first phase of the 3.2-mile, $331 million Opportunity Corridor project in downtown Cleveland. The project will connect Interstate 490 and the booming neighborhood of University Circle, crossing over existing infrastructure, taking out houses, businesses, and a church.
A project nearly 15 years in the making, Opportunity Corridor is the keystone initiative of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s 2015 construction season, whose budget totals $2.4 billion. “It’s one of the most exciting projects that I’ve ever been part of,” ODOT Director Jerry Wray told Cleveland’s Plain Dealer in March. “It’s going to impact the lives of millions of people for decades to come.”
The purpose of the new corridor is to improve system linkage, mobility, public transportation connections, and facilities for pedestrians and cyclists. It also supports planned economic development. Three-quarters of the project’s 3.2 miles of roads will be new, sporting low, grassy medians and 10-foot wide boulevards for biking and walking on either side. One of the more interesting additions to the project is the inclusion of ultra-high-speed fiber-optic cable.
Not only will Opportunity Corridor affect 80,000 residents of the Greater Cleveland area, the project aims to connect areas of the city currently undergoing a resurgence. With the addition of fiber optic cables, ODOT is betting on high-tech infrastructure to encourage economic growth in the neighborhoods through which it runs.
The average income in areas surrounding much of the corridor is only $10,000, and urban blight abounds in and around some of the existing roadways. Cleveland firm City Architecture conducted a study of brownfields throughout the corridor, doing GIS inventory on 450 acres of land and reimagining much of it as new green space, mixed-use development, and green infrastructure.