City of Cleveland Plays it Fast and Loose with Transportation Money

The stated purpose, by project proponents, for Cleveland’s “Opportunity Corridor,” a $350 million highway project, is to spur development on 1,000 underused acres.

That amounts a development subsidy of $350,000 per acre. Is that a good deal for taxpayers? $350k per acre. I’m skeptical, seeing as how the current value of the land could not be any higher than $100k per acre.

The city of Cleveland’s attitude though is, “it’s not our money.” So I guess the fact that it’s your money and my money and not the city of Cleveland’s mean’s they don’t have a responsibility to see that it is invested wisely, and with the greatest possible benefit to the public? Is that what “it’s not our money” means? That’s certainly what it sounds like to me, an admission that the city is not investing public money very wisely because it is not “theirs.”

The city of Cleveland routinely uses state and federal tax dollars that are supposed to be for transportation as a gift for developers, and not very judiciously, as this example illustrates. For example, the city of Cleveland built an interchange for the residents of Battery Park using state money. This $35 million project, which added highway capacity to a project that was envisioned as a highway downgrading, amounts to more than $100,000 subsidy per unit for the condo complex. This is an abuse of the system.

The big losers here are Clevelanders, especially folks that rely on transit, who will not receive their fair share of transportation resources that have instead been lavished on developers.

My friend told me recently “page 1 of the one page playbook” in cities is “the solution to everything is to transfer wealth upward, so long as the city gets a cut.” Sounds about right to me.

-A.S.

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