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Cleveland Planning Commission OKs Mayor Bibb's push to clear jersey barriers from Public Square

Cleveland workers return concrete jersey barriers to Public Square
Nick Castele
/
Ideastream Public Media
Workers return concrete barriers to Public Square after they were temporarily removed for St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

The Cleveland City Planning Commission gave the preliminary green light Friday to Mayor Justin Bibb’s plan to swap unsightly jersey barriers for bollards at Public Square.

Bibb is proposing to spend $1.5 million to fix structural damage at the square and install bollards. The legislation also needs approval from Cleveland City Council.

Planning commission members unanimously approved the idea Friday morning, but asked the administration to come back to the body as it fleshes out designs.

“Everyone’s happy and excited about this beginning,” Commission Chair Lillian Kuri said. “Is it possible, I’m asking, for it to come back, when there might be a couple of alternatives, to the commission? Since I think there is some question about, are there alternatives to just a sea of bollards that might be out there?”

The square received a $50 million makeover before the 2016 Republican National Convention, closing off Ontario Street and leaving Superior Avenue open to buses.

Mayor Frank Jackson attempted to keep Superior closed to buses after the convention, but relented under pressure from the Federal Transit Administration. Cleveland then installed concrete jersey barriers through the heart of the square on the grounds that they would protect pedestrians there.

Ward 17 Councilman Charles Slife, a planning commission member, said he would support Bibb’s plan. But he lamented the fact that the city was in this position in the first place.

“Residents of the city are really unhappy that we’re having to spend a million and a half dollars on this,” Slife said. “And a big part of that is because the previous administration, in putting in these jersey barriers, forced buses to stop in areas that were not engineered to carry that load.”

The stopping caused the structural damage the city is paying to fix.

Bibb pledged during last year’s campaign that he would cart the jersey barriers out of the square, and his supporters are eager to see him deliver on that promise.

On Friday morning, it appeared that the city had quietly cleared the square of concrete barriers. But in fact they had only been removed for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Later that morning, city trucks were seen hauling the concrete hunks back into place.

Nick Castele is a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media.