Officials to Fund Cleveland’s I-90 Bridge With $200M From Stimulus

Sat May 02, 2009 - Midwest Edition
CEG



CLEVELAND (AP) Ohio transportation officials will use $200 million of federal stimulus money to help build a new five-lane Interstate-90 Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland.

That’s about half the amount needed for the project. The rest of the money is coming from other federal and state transportation funding sources.

The I-90 bridge is the most expensive on a list of $900 million worth of Ohio infrastructure projects being paid for with federal stimulus funds.

The new structure will be built next to the city’s existing Innerbelt bridge, which has been under repair this year after officials discovered steel plates and beams were deteriorating faster than expected.

Trucks and large buses recently have been restricted from traveling across the 50-year-old span. The bridge carries 120,000 cars every day and is a major artery to downtown Cleveland, said Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Varner.

State Transportation Department officials say the I-90 bridge is Ohio’s most pressing transportation concern. The new bridge is expected to be finished by 2013, but no date has been set to begin construction.

When it’s finished, the new bridge will carry westbound traffic and allow workers to continue repairs on the old span without any major lane closures, Varner said.

Ohio House Speaker Armond Budish, who lives in suburban Cleveland, said the bridge project will create jobs and bolster the area’s economy.

“Once the bridge is done, we will have a new landmark for the Cleveland area,” he said. “It will make sure that people can continue to easily travel into Cleveland, and it will keep the downtown vibrant.”

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson opposed an earlier proposal to close the existing bridge while a replacement was built.

“We have to look at the Innerbelt as a very key part of downtown Cleveland — actually the whole region’s transportation network,” said Ken Silliman, Jackson’s chief of staff. “A lot of traffic goes through that stretch of grid.”

The stimulus money for the I-90 bridge is part of the state’s two-year $7.5 billion transportation budget bill. Lawmakers are still trying to come to an agreement on that bill, and leaders of the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate planned to meet to try to negotiate a deal.

Money can’t be spent until 90 days after the governor signs the bill, and lawmakers had planned to get an agreement to his desk by March 31 — 90 days before July 1, which is the beginning of the next budget year.