Why are these Cleveland streets being repaved before some that are in worse shape?

Posted at 8:42 AM, May 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-11 09:42:20-04

Rough rides on Cleveland's streets were made more difficult by a tough winter. Plans are in place to fix them, but our ongoing investigation "Broken Roads, Broken System" has shown flaws in the way Cleveland chooses roads to repave.

The year 2018 is no different.

Jeremy Broach lives on the east side. His street, East 124th, from Mount Overlook to Fairhill, is on the list to be repaved this year. "That's crazy,” Broach said.

There are some potholes on that street, but the vast majority of the road is just fine.

"I think it's a good street," said Broach, who has lived in his east side neighborhood for six years.

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"Is this one of the worst streets in Cleveland?” we asked.

“Not at all. I would say one of the least,” he told us. 

The System

"I think it's a good system,” said Blaine Griffin, who is Broach’s new Ward 6 Councilman. He said things we’ve heard before. "It's based on worst-first,” Griffin told us.

It’s a strategy that says the city is going after the worst roads, which are graded F. That original grade came from an expensive study that 5 On Your Side Investigators has debunked on numerous occasions.

Griffin told us he uses that most recent Cleveland streets study done by Baker International, and he drives around the ward. 

"The areas and the parts that I've chosen, and the areas and the parts that we're focused on are F rated…I've tried to get to them the best way we can," Griffin said.

When a street deserves an F

There are plenty of F-rated streets on the city list that are being addressed. However, there are also roads like Trowbridge Avenue in Ward 14 from West 41st to West 44th that the city's own data shows is rated a C.

Liz Umstott and her young family live on Trowbridge.

"(City leaders are) saying we're definitely getting out and getting those F streets done,” we told Umstott. 

“Yeah, I'm not sure about that,” she said.

She told us she'll take the repaving, but there's no way Trowbridge is that bad.

“There's definitely worse (streets),” she said.

Then there's Sandra Jones in Ward 15. She's angry with her street, West 54th. “I think it's terrible. All up and down it's just terrible," she said.

There’s part of it that’s paved, but just beyond that paving, and still on 54th, Jones lives with potholes and huge utility cuts.

"All the way down here, they got to swerve, you know?” she said pointing to the pothole patched street. “Watch that car. See how it's bumping…rising up and down? It's bad."

How a C becomes an F
Councilman Ken Johnson is the Chair of the Cleveland City Council committee that oversees streets.

"How do you think the selection process is going?” we asked Johnson.

“I think the selection process is going pretty well,” he replied.

“Would it surprise you that we're finding some C (rated) streets getting done?” we asked.

“No. It would not surprise me,” Johnson said.

He told us there are variables about a road to think about, like high-traffic areas, emergency streets that lead to hospitals and safety concerns. "You just can't take the F streets and this is it. Period," he said.

While the city says it will get to the F streets first, people like Broach say they’re getting mixed messages about the Cleveland roads system.

"Come together and rethink that…Let's do it right,” said Broach.

So far, streets in seven out of the 17 Cleveland wards have been slated for repaving this year. As new lists come in, we will check the streets selected and let you know what we find.

Jonathan Walsh has covered Cleveland's broken roads for years. For more of our continuing coverage: Broken Roads, Broken System