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:

Ms. Hinkle-

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.

Thank you,

Jason Wise, P.E.
Ohio Department of Transportation, District 12
District Geotechnical Engineer
5500 Transportation Blvd.
Garfield Heights, Ohio 44125
(216)-584-2144 (office)
(614)-887-4228 (E-Fax)

In response to my inquiry, he wrote me recently to say:

Ms. Hinkle

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.

Sincerely,

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:

Dear Mark,
 
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.

I wrote to thank Councilman Cimperman

And many thanks, as always to wonderful Director Brown for letting me know:

 

When Councilmember Cimperman heard about the May 10th meeting, he informed ODOT and others that the residents and other local stakeholders need to be involved in a meeting before anything is decided on the landscaping and related issues for the second Innerbelt Bridge. He is now working with the Tremont West group to set up such a meeting. I have copied the Councilmember and the Tremont West director on this email.

Robert N. Brown, Director

Cleveland City Planning Commission

 

 

 

ODOT, Roses, Social Media and Govt

See post above (Tremont resident asks ODOT for roses):

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.

Thank you Anita for following up here and providing some measure of citizen input and serving as a citizen watchdog.  We are all expected to be worn down. 

Last night--WKYC did a piece on social media and access to our political representatives.  Joe Cimperman got a high score (and deservedly so) for a good response time.  Starting with our local representatives and working our way up--more politicians will have to be responsive, especially to social media.  REALNEO was the first application of this "Citizen Dashboard" and it continues to affect needed change. 

Anita, you represent a generation that VOTES and votes in number. I hope that elected officials are taking note.

 

(and I am sorry I haven't been out to photograph the roses--please post photos here :)

My grievance dismissed and my reply

Cory Riordan, the new Director of TWDC wrote me that they thought the meeting was about the Towpath Trail. They then informed Councilman Cimperman.

Today I received an email from Mark Vonder Embse of FHWA with an attached .pdf file of a letter to me dated May 21, 2012. This is already quite long enough, so I will just post my draft reply below. If anyone wants a copy of the .pdf, just wrote me and I'll send it to you. Any input and support (please copy me if you send an email in support of my position to mark [dot] vonderembse [at] dot [dot] gov and ohio [dot] fhwa [at] dot [dot] gov) would be a great help.

Thank you for including the letter, as I have not yet received it. I am surprised that you have made a final determination, since I was informed by Ms. Leffler that the investigation would be thorough and lengthy.
 
 
1. You did not find my name on a sign in sheet because my block club met in a place hard for me to access, until I complained I never knew what would be discussed at the meetings, and I do not consider them to be democratic. I am in favor of vegetation, but believe that entire community should have been notified of meetings, as our councilman is now insisting be done.
 
Once ODOT started holding monthly public meetings, unfortunately now cut to quarterly meetings, I have attended every single one.
 
A small percentage of the entire community attend block clubs or even consider themselves members of TWDC. Meetings about the first bridge were never even published in TWDC's own newsletter, let alone the PLAIN DEALER.
 
 You have not said why ODOT recommended planting sugar maples, which OSU said are "urban intolerant." Or why so many trees to be planted are on the City of Chicago Department of Transportation's do not plant list. They are not that different from Cleveland. Plus, their list consists of trees that both survive and have no additional concerns. ODOT’s own District Horticulturist Edward Rahel admitted that red maples have problems when he stated that “sugar maples do also have some issues with surface rooting but do not grow as fast as Red Maples and do not have the problems associated with them.” He said they don’t use oaks on highway plantings because of their size and because they drop the acorns which can cause problems, yet doesn’t think seedlings are the same problem as acorns evidently. And oaks with their acorns are tentatively listed to be planted next to and in the middle of downtown busy streets. He granted that planting “Goldenraintree may not be a wise decision due to the dropping seeds but that is what gives the tree its character and sets it apart from other species.”
 
 2. I reiterated to you, Mark, at our meeting that I know ODOT is not responsible for fire stations. The City of Cleveland is going to try to cope with the problem, but that does not mean that it is not a problem.
 
 What I said in my grievance, a copy of which was given to you, was: “ODOT on January 17, 2012 released a draft list of major projects to be delayed due to insufficient money. It showed that the second Bridge, due to be completed by 2016 instead would not be funded until 2023. (See Exhibit 17) The current Bridge is three years beyond its designed lifespan, carries about 120,000 cars daily on Interstate 90 and has a construction similar to the Interstate 35 bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis in 2008. (See Exhibit 18.)
  
Tremont was cut in half by the building of Interstate 90 straight through it, and was further carved up by Interstate 490. The local fire station has been closed and firefighters must cross the river to fight any fires in Tremont. If only one bridge is operable, the resulting traffic jams will lengthen to a great degree the arrival of firefighters.
 

Similarly an attempt to cross the river to reach MetroHealth Hospital, Cleveland's sole Level I adult trauma center, may be greatly lengthened and patients’ arrival might be too late.

 

Commute times to work downtown or in the eastern suburbs will be lengthened, be it by car or by bus.

Then there are the economic disadvantages accruing to the small businesses in Tremont. Should they have to close, people will be laid off.

 

Residents did not get the southern bridge they wanted due to a flawed if not illegal process (see Exhibits 1, 2., 19., and 20.,) now they would like to just get the job done, both bridges built in a timely manner."

 

 Our councilman and TWDC also are very upset about this delay.

 
 3. The director of planning for the city of Clevelandtold me in an email dated July 20, 2011, "I delved into this further and learned that Tremont West will, in fact, manage the parking lot." It is interesting to learn that the City and ODOT have evidently now signed an agreement. It is nice to have the detail you provided about the parking lots, but it has been a terrible struggle to get information about this.
 
Other than the once a year Greek Festival, nothing happens near the bridges requiring a large parking lot under the second bridge. The lot, I am told, has been reduced in size, but is still much larger than required by the users of the Towpath Trail. I have read over the minutes of the meetings about the parking lot and the reasons given for it have changed over time.
 
As far as I could ascertain, even the block clubs were not involved in decisions about the parking lot under the bridge. A staff member of TWDC said at a meeting of the Economic Development Committee that he had asked for the lot to be built, which was news to the board of TWDC.
 
 Councilman Cimperman, in an email to me dated October 2, 2011, described the parking lot project as "an ever shifting geography and project." He felt the need to bring information before the entire community, which still has not been done, as he said, "Ms. Hinkle: Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have a meeting scheduled with ODOT in the next 45 days where I hope to receive an update on the update.
 
Any action taken prior may have to be retaken as this is an ever shifting geography and project.
  
I look forward to bringing this to you, your committee, and the community as soon as possible, with as many facts and answers as are available."
  
4. I suggested to ODOT that L1.1B of AE-02 Conceptual Streetscape and Landscape Plans should be posted on their website for the community to view, but was told that it was “only the ‘25 percent’ design document and ‘not for construction,’ [so] it may be a bit disingenuous of us [ODOT] to place these documents prominently on our Web site until those designs become ‘final.’” (See Exhibit 7). This is precisely why it should be posted, if the community does not see the details being considered until they are final, it will then be too late to have any input into the plans.
  
So I do not believe that the level of public involvement was sufficient. Relying on TWDC and the block clubs does not involve the entire community as these are a small percentage of the community. It is not enough that minority and low income populations not experience disproportionately high and adverse impacts. I have read that 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. This was NOT done.
  
Director Brown copied ODOT on his May 21, 2012 email, the date of the attached letter, stating, "When Councilmember Cimperman heard about the May 10th meeting, he informed ODOT and others that the residents and other local stakeholders need to be involved in a meeting before anything is decided on the landscaping and related issues for the second Innerbelt Bridge."
  
Cory Riordan, the new director of TWDC informed me in a May 21, 2012 email that "Tremont West attended the meeting without a clear indication of what was going to be discussed, as ODOT called the meeting. Once we were at the meeting and it was clear that new aesthetic enhancements were being discussed, we notified Councilman Cimperman as he was not aware of the meeting. Councilman Cimperman then clearly expressed to ODOT and others that no decisions would be made until there was a community process. We are working to make sure this happens. It was a surprise to us as we thought the meeting had to do with Towpath alignment!"
 
 So I am not alone in feeling that ODOT has not had an appropriate level of public involvement.

Email from Project Director on second bridge, 7-10 meeting

 

Ms. Hinkle

To my surprise, I found your beautiful flowers on my desk this morning. I am sorry I was not here to great you. That was a very kind gesture and I thank you!

Fortunately, I was meeting with Kristen at Tremont West, Bob Brown and Councilman Cimperman regarding the enhancements we are proposing for the project adjacent to your home. They are all very excited about our plans!

We look forward to presenting the plans to the public. Just to give you a heads up, we have tentatively scheduled the public meeting to be held the evening of July 10, 2012. Time and location are still to be determined. We will be sure to let you know.

Thank you,

Jason Wise, P.E.

 

I wrote to Cory asking:

Is it possible to give me some ideas about the plans, and, if they are not considering planting rugosa roses from Fairfield down to Abbey, as I have been requesting for quite some time now, why not and is it possible still to get this change made?