Opportunity Corridor project to move forward in Cleveland; Turnpike funds to help project move ahead

CLEVELAND - Gov. John Kasich unveiled his plan for improving Ohio's infrastructure Monday with a $3 billion list of projects now slated to begin construction as soon as next year in some cases, including Cleveland's Opportunity Corridor.

The $331 million project would link Interstate 490 where it ends at East 55th Street to University Circle. The multi-lane boulevard would feature a wide median, bike paths and traffic lights while providing easy access to University Circle and amenities such as the Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals.

"This is not just about Opportunity Corridor, about connecting all of this, it's about opportunity period," Kasich said. "Opportunity for people to have jobs and opportunity for people to have hope."

Without the state funds, which will come from the plan approved this year to bond against turnpike revenue, would have been delayed for another 13 years.

As it stands work on the first phase of the project, which calls for the widening of East 105th Street from Chester Avenue to Quincy Avenue, could begin by late 2014. The rest of the project, from Quincy to East 55th Street, beginning as early as 2017.

"It will get people from one point to another more easily, but it's really about creating new places for capital investment," said Joe Roman of the Greater Cleveland Partnership.

State Sen. Tom Patton said it "may go down as one of the most important projects northeast Ohio has seen."

University Circle is home to the city's two largest employers in Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals. In addition, it is home to 33,000 people, and Case Western boasts nearly 10,000 students and 4,500 employees.

"For Case Western Reserve, the corridor stands to open our campus not only to students and parents but to expand physical connections with our partners in the broader community," said University President Barbara Snyder.

"To enhance those three institutions in just fantastic," Kasich said. "Not to mention Little Italy one of my favorite places."

"It's about the whole area we need economic development and that is exactly what this is going to bring now all of sudden people are going to say I think I can make and investment there and I'm going to make money from it."

The announcement came at the Orlando Baking Company on Grand Avenue. The plant sits along the future corridor. While the company was already going forward with plans to expand the site it means a brighter future.

"We probably could have been able to expand but it would have been more difficult," said Orlando Baking Vice President John Anthony Orlando. "I think with Opportunity Corridor it's going to give us more opportunities to expand."

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