Cleveland's Opportunity Corridor will open to traffic next week

Everyone got a chance to cut the ribbon Wednesday at a ceremony for the new Opportunity Corridor, a connector from I-490 to University Circle through the East Side neighborhoods sometimes called the “Forgotten Triangle.”

The corridor, a three-mile stretch that connects I-490 and East 55th to East 105th Street will officially open for traffic late next week. It aims to address three primary needs identified in its planning, according to Ohio Department of Transportation District Deputy Director John Picuri.

“Improve system linkage among the roadways, neighborhoods and businesses in the area, improve mobility between the interstate system and University Circle and support planned economic development,” Picuri said.

City council members are hearing from businesses who are interested in opening locations on the corridor, said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks. The project has created a safe roadway for motorists, pedestrians and bikers, he said.

During the construction period, Ohio Means Jobs helped create jobs in the area in general labor, healthcare and manufacturing, Marchbanks said.

“They registered more than 1,200 opportunity corridor residents with a career counseling center during the project,” Marchbanks said. “A total of 327 Opportunity Corridor residents received supportive services from Ohio Means Jobs and 458 individuals have been placed for jobs through the program.”

The project was completed faster than anticipated in the 2013 budget and $74 million less than the Federal Highway Administration's cost estimate, Marchbanks said.

For workers who were hired to build the corridor, it offered a chance to get involved in construction and find stable employment. Some hadn’t worked in construction before, but voiced their appreciation for the opportunity to learn new skills in a different industry.

“The opportunity is there. What I took from this being called the Opportunity Corridor, it was for people from the inner city to come and do some work to make the city look like this,” said laborer Marshay Gibbons, who worked on two phases of the project. “I jumped on it. It’s not hard.”

Several local officials attended the ribbon cutting ceremony to show their support for the corridor, including Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. The project has been in development through the city for more than ten years, Jackson said.

“It was not just a bypassing of the community, but it actually became incorporated in the community, not just in terms of the ability to get on and off and have intersections, but also in terms of jobs, contracts and economic development,” Jackson said.

Sidewalks and multipurpose trails are also a feature of the project. East 75th Street along the corridor is set to be the location of the new Cleveland Police headquarters. Residents and critics have questioned how much benefit the corridor will actually bring to the area, particularly for underserved and underrepresented communities.

Resident Vendetta Brown’s parents worked with the Jackson administration on the project, she said. Though both of her parents have passed away, she wanted to be there for the corridor’s launch. Her family had homes in the area which were torn down during development.

“Progress is progress, and sometimes you can’t go with what’s good for yourself,” Brown said. “You have to go with what’s good for the masses of the people, and I think this is good for the masses.”

Brown appreciates the corridor’s impact on the community so far with the creation of new jobs and investment, she said. She hopes that positive impact continues and lives up to the promises that have been made.

“I think it’s going to help. I’m going to pray that it does,” Brown said. “But just the fact that people are getting jobs, good construction jobs, that’s wonderful for some of these residents.”

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