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Plans are in the works to straighten Dead Man's Curve

Posted at 5:46 PM, Aug 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-15 18:09:48-04

CLEVELAND — Construction hasn’t started, land hasn’t been purchased and design work hasn’t been done. Major changes to the innerbelt corridor near downtown Cleveland, however, are still in the works for the next two decades. One of the major components of the so-called Innerbelt Modernization Plan includes the straightening of Dead Man’s Curve or, as ODOT calls it, the Innerbelt Curve.

The topic of the future changes to the I-90’s hairpin turn came up during discussions at Tuesday’s Cleveland City Council Public Safety Committee. City council members and planning staff were discussing a potential site for the new site of the police department’s mounted unit. City planners notified council members that locations on the eastern side of Dead Man’s Curve were not being considered because of ODOT’s future plans for the area.

Although ODOT has not started doing design work or acquiring land as part of future work inside the I-90 trench, planning remains underway, said ODOT District 12 spokesperson Amanda McFarland.

“All of these innerbelt projects are just about trying to get people into the city better,” McFarland said. “That’s where it’s all happening right now. There’s so much going on in downtown Cleveland. That’s why these projects are so important and vital. That’s why we’ve made this Innerbelt Modernization Plan to begin with.”

The Innerbelt Modernization Plan is a multi-phase, multi-decade, multi-billion dollar endeavor that has already brought welcome upgrades to the vital corridor, including the construction of new innerbelt bridges south of downtown. As for Dead Man’s Curve, the sharp turn that brings speeds down to 35 miles-per-hour, construction is still likely a decade away.

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Semi truck flipped over on I-90 near Dead Man's Curve, spilling fuel and shutting down the highway.

The turn was built in 1959. Only a few years later, several safety enhancements to the area were implemented, including rumble strips, more signage and a lower speed limit. While there are fewer crash fatalities around Dead Man’s Curve than there have ever been, the area is still a major crash-prone choke point.

“It is kind of a safety issue there at the curve. With everyone slowing down, there are a lot of rear end collisions because there is slow traffic. Once there is one rear end collision, more traffic slows and there are secondary crashes,” McFarland said. “For a safety perspective, it’s important but also it will get rid of the choke point and slowdowns getting into and out of downtown in that area.”

The fourth phase of the Innerbelt Modernization Project, which is scheduled to begin some time between 2024-2029, includes the relocation of a major sewer interceptor under I-90 and the replacement of CSX and Norfolk South railroad bridges over the highway. Additionally, the fourth phase includes replacing the Superior, St. Clair, Hamilton and Lakeside Avenue bridges over I-90 and relocate the I-90 westbound ramp to Chester Avenue The realignment of the curve north of Superior Avenue is the last item on the list of projects.

“We’ve been working our way through them slowly but surely,” McFarland said. “The work that is remaining [on the innerbelt corridor] is work that’s valued at over a billion dollars. To say there is a lot of work left is kind of an understatement. For the design process we don’t even have any funding for that yet. Once we can get some funding for that we’ll really, really know the nitty-gritty details about this project and have a better estimate for construction. Right now, it’s estimated around $444 million to $566 million.”

As for which major projects are prioritized and funded over others, McFarland said the state’s Transportation Review Advisory Council vets proposed projects and categorizes or prioritizes which ones are funded.