Gov. Ted Strickland tells ODOT to rethink Inner Belt Bridge bike lane


Gov. Ted Strickland tells ODOT to rethink Inner Belt Bridge bike lane

Plain Dealer – COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Ted Strickland has jumped into the fray over whether to add a bike lane to the planned Inner Belt Bridge project, ordering the transportation department to study whether such a multipurpose lane is even feasible.

The Ohio Department of Transportation has said it already studied whether to add a lane for bicyclists and pedestrians and had decided against it for various reasons — cost, maintenance and user safety, among them.

"But at the direction of the governor, we will take a renewed look," said Scott Varner, ODOT spokesman.

What would potentially be the narrowest lane across the $450 million bridge has drawn the biggest debate for politicians.

ODOT has said $85 million in federal stimulus money has already been allocated for the program, based on an environmental impact statement that did not include a bike lane.

To go back now and ask the Federal Highway Administration to revise the statement could put Ohio's federal funding in jeopardy, ODOT has contended.

That did not sit well with U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who last month wrote the highway administration asking it to allow ODOT to resubmit the impact statement without threat of losing funding. ODOT, meanwhile, did not relent.

Then last Thursday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown took a different approach, writing to Strickland and urging the governor to get involved and ensure ODOT includes a multipurpose route across the bridge.

"It would be penny-wise and pound-foolish to build this bridge with only cars and trucks in mind," Brown wrote to Strickland.

"It is imperative that when construction begins on the new Inner Belt, a bike and pedestrian path is included," Brown said.

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