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City plans for Franklin Boulevard depart from earlier recommendations and get early pushback

Posted at 5:45 AM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 17:24:41-04

CLEVELAND — Residents along Franklin Boulevard have been complaining about speeding and unsafe driving on that road for years. It connects Ohio City to Gordon Square and Detroit Shoreway, and has a 35 mph speed limit because that is the minimum allowed by state law for a road of its length.

The plan released by the City of Cleveland for the West Franklin Boulevard Rehabilitation would make some changes to the roadway, but local residents and elected officials say it doesn’t go far enough.

Franklin Boulevard right now

Doloris Garcia loves living along Franklin Boulevard for the last eight years but doesn’t love drivers’ behavior.

“I will tell you, it’s very frustrating, particularly as a mom,” said Garcia. “Having the playground right across the street, people treat Franklin like a highway.”

A newly-constructed traffic circle outside The Dexter apartments restores Franklin Circle after it had been turned into a four-way intersection.

It’s been a problem for years down the street for Angie Schmitt too.

“If there’s a crash or someone’s really speeding, it reverberates throughout the whole house and it’s pretty dangerous,” said Schmitt, who said there was a crash that severely damaged a neighbor’s car just a few months ago.

Signs line Franklin Boulevard to show pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers where they can provide feedback about the proposed changes for Franklin.

In 2019, the Northeast Ohio Area Coordinating Agency (NOACA) recommended a long list of safety upgrades after a traffic study that experimented with diverting traffic off of Franklin. It was ultimately decided to not divert traffic from Franklin Boulevard, but NOACA created a long list of recommendations for making Franklin Boulevard more safe.

Those recommendations proposed removing many traffic lights along Franklin and replacing many of them with traffic circles, extending many curbs where there are crosswalks, and raising the crosswalks to be the same height as the sidewalk. That would make it easier for pedestrians to cross by not having to step down into the road, but it would also serve as an elongated speed bump for vehicles.

A traffic study experimented with redirecting traffic off of Franklin Boulevard. That option was overwhelmingly unpopular.

Many of the recommendations came with the note: “Signal removal should only proceed with raised crosswalk installation, to slow uncontrolled traffic along Franklin Blvd.”

The plan Cleveland released left some big pieces out.

“I was talking to a few of any neighbors who worked on this and we were really disappointed because we worked so hard to get this plan and [the City of Cleveland] came back with something that’s pretty watered down and quite a bit different,” said Schmitt.

The City of Cleveland Plan for Franklin Boulevard

The City of Cleveland’s plan for Franklin Boulevard would also remove many of the traffic signals but would not also install raised crosswalks like NOACA’s recommendations suggested.

Cleveland's plan for Franklin Boulevard would remove traffic lights like this one but would not also install raised crosswalks, which are meant to slow drivers down.

Instead, the city’s plan would use High Visibility Crosswalks that would stay at the same grade as the existing street, allowing cars to move through them without slowing down. Another criticism so far has been that the proposed traffic circles in the city’s plan aren’t wide or tall enough. Ward 3 Cleveland City Council member Kerry McCormack says drivers would likely be able to drive right over them.

“Whether they be roundabouts, whether they be raised sidewalks, they have to be high quality, and they have to be substantial enough to where they don’t get run over, people disregard them,” said McCormack. “They have to actually slow traffic for the community.”

The corner of Franklin and West 54th Street is slated to lose its traffic signal but get a traffic circle. Councilman McCormack is worried the circle won't be large enough to actually make drivers slow down.

McCormack says he and Ward 15 Councilmember Jenny Spencer, who represents the western edge of the proposed project, are holding legislation that would fund the estimated $3,286,800 project until they are satisfied with changes they’ve been discussing with Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration.

The project website suggests that the design is supposed to be completed in August 2021, with construction starting in April 2022.

A large intersection at West 85th and Franklin would lose a "slip lane" that allows cars to quickly turn onto Franklin Boulevard traveling east.

“Let me be clear, we want this project,” said McCormack. “We want this investment in our community but what we can’t have is a brand new road that cars can drive even faster down.”

Schmitt says he hears similar complaints about speeding and dangerous driving all over Cleveland and was excited for the NOACA recommendations to be tried out in her neighborhood.

“We were hoping that this would be sort of like a trial balloon and that the city could be implementing measures like this all over the city,” said Schmitt.

35 mph is the lowest the speed limit can be on Franklin because of state law.

Instead, residents can submit feedback on the plan until May 20 by clicking here.

News 5 Cleveland reached out to the Mayor’s office on Monday to see if they plan on changing the current plan for Franklin Boulevard, and again before this story aired on Wednesday. We still haven’t heard back.

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