Public Square Re-Opens to Great Fanfare, But Traffic Issues Remain

The view from Key Tower [David Staruch / ideastream]
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UPDATE: The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has recieved a letter from the Federal Transit Authority notifying the agency of an outstanding debt of $12 million. 

2016 marked a transformation in the heart of downtown Cleveland.  Public Square underwent a major makeover, which included new landscaping, a splash fountain and the removal of a major street --- Ontario --- through its center. The new, vast expanse of grass, harkens back to the Square's beginnings, over 200 years ago, when the basic design was plotted out by a crew of New England surveyors, led by city founder Moses Cleaveland (yes, his name was spelled with an extra "a").  Public Square started out as a grazing area for livestock, and evolved into a public meeting place.  It's been the focus of many civic events, including a gathering spot for citizens mourning the death of President Abraham Lincoln, whose body lay in state on the Square as it was being transported from Washington to a burial in Illinois.

In more recent years, Public Square had become a transfer point for many city buses, filling the area with congestion and diesel fumes.  The return to public space was the result of a growing population downtown.  Artists who turned some empty Warehouse District buildings into lofty studios, were eventually replaced by downtown professionals who wanted to live near work.  A further influx of young people and some empty-nesters created demand for green space in the urban core.  Funding for the project was secured through a mix of public and private sources, and the arrival of the Republican National Convention, this past summer, put the renovations on a fast-track.

Superior Avenue, the other major roadway cutting through Public Square, was redesigned to be a bus-only street. But when Public Square proved to be a popular downtown destination, Mayor Frank Jackson decided to close-off this remaining thoroughfare and make Public Square a unified whole, rerouting bus traffic around the perimeter.  But, there's one potential problem with that decision:  federal transit dollars were used in the funding mix to pay for the Square's renovations.  If it's determined that eliminating bus traffic violates the original agreement, the city may have to repay $12-million to the feds.                 

CLICK HERE to take a quick video tour through the new Public Square  

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