Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
The ODOT saga continues
Submitted by Oldroser on Sat, 05/19/2012 - 20:58.
I haven't been updating this because I was spending a great deal of time researching environmental justice, one of the main goals of transportation. It requires providing timely and meaningful opportunities for participation and comment by representatives of potentially affected low income and minority communities and to address disproportionately high and adverse effects, including mitigation measures and consideration of alternatives that would avoid or reduce the disproportionately high and adverse effects.
These measures may include pollution prevention, and health and safety measures; measures to maintain community cohesion and economic vitality; and mitigation and compensatory measures. This process includes procedures to provide meaningful opportunities for public involvement by low-income and minority populations, including community input in identifying potential mitigation measures for DOT actions. DOT is committed to engaging low-income and minority populations in the transportation decision making process, from the earliest stages of planning through project implementation.
Tremont has almost half of its population earning $20,000 or less, and of that 25% earns $10,000 or less, definitely low income and so subject to environmental justice. So I then spent a good bit of my time documenting how only seven people met to decide on the trees to be planted. ODOT showed a slide presentation and told them to choose from those trees. They were from property holders west of Fairhill, none east. And no one was consulted about the parking lot to be built under the bridges, although Sammy Catania finally said he asked for it. This was news to the TWDC board! And then I added the problem of the second bridge not being completed for some time.
I shipped it off to Washington, D.C., who referred it to the Columbus, Ohio Federal Highway Administration. Mark Vonder Embse of the FHA drove up from Columbus to meet with me in early April. He is now on the Innerbelt Project, but not been on the ground too much, as I had to orient him and point out how there are no residences to the one side, all being on my side, which is where a parking lot is planned instead being restricted to the side with no residences, if necessary at all.
I also spoke with his superior, Laura Lessler, Division Administrator, who assured me that they were going to go into great detail and take their time with my grievance.
I thought Mr. Vonder Embse said he'd let me know when they started planning the second bridge's landscaping since I want rugosa roses planted along the short stretch in front of my house and want to help choose the roses, as the seven people got to pick their trees and shrubs. But just to be sure, I recently wrote Mr. Wise, Project Manager for the second bridge to inquire. He had earlier told me:
Thank you for contacting me regarding your requested enhancements to the roadway adjacent to your property and neighborhood. ODOT continually values input from all stake holders. While your request is not out of the question, I do not want to make any promises at this time. ODOT just authorized Richland Engineering Limited June 1, 2011 to prepare plans for the new eastbound Innerbelt bridge as well as demolition plans for the existing Innerbelt bridge. At this time, we are still ramping up to begin detailed design.
Throughout the project development process, we will be holding public meetings with focus groups and block clubs, similar to those held for the westbound design build project currently under construction. This will be the prime opportunity for you to express your concerns and requests to myself and other stake holders. Of course, I welcome input at any time, in any format. When we begin to detail the enhancement portions of the plans, we will keep your request in mind and do our best to include your input.
Please contact me with any concerns and I will be happy to help you.
Jason Wise, P.E.
In response to my inquiry, he wrote me recently to say:
Thank you for your inquiry. It is actually perfect timing as we have recently begun our aesthetics and enhancements design process.
On May 10, 2012, we met with groups comprised of city and county officials, local community development organizations and large business interests to introduce our proposed enhancements and look for feedback. We received a lot of positive feedback and a few ideas how we can proceed. ODOT’s design team is currently making modifications to our aesthetics plan to present to the stakeholders again for approval. After the stakeholders approval, we plan on holding a public meeting in late June or early July. We are still working out the exact schedule. This will be your opportunity to express your opinions and concerns.
Jason Wise, P.E.
LARGE businesses but no small ones or we adjoining property holders, hmmm. So I am going to write Mr. Vonder Embse and Ms. Lessler, with a copy to Cleveland Planning Director Brown, as follows:
I thought that you had said that you would let me know when planning started.
However, per the email below from Mr. Wise, Project Manager for the second bridge, the aesethetics and enhancements design process has already begun.
And the affected property owners and entire environmental justice population have been left out in favor of officials, organizations and large business interests. All those are considered stakeholders, but the local population and affected property owners are not. The officials, organizations and large business interests get to approve, the local environmental justice population, which would include small business interests, and property owners merely get to express opinions and concerns.
The single large public meeting for the first bridge only let us vote on trivial choices of colors on a few selected items.
We still are not being provided information or given the opportunity for full, fair and meaningful participation, to provide input which would be utilized.