Federal Transportation Administration wants RTA to payback $12 million for breach of contract

Posted at 4:48 PM, Dec 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-30 22:14:54-05

The Federal Transportation Administration wants the Cleveland Rapid Transit Authority to pay back a portion of a multimillion-dollar grant in 30 days for a breach of contract. 

In a three-page letter dated Dec. 20 and addressed to RTA Executive Director Joseph Calabrese, the federal agency claims a breach of contract occurred when city officials closed Public Square resulting in buses not being able to go through. 

The agency wants RTA to pay back $12 million. The money was a part of a $142 million grant to fund the construction of the Euclid Corridor. A portion of the initial grant was set aside for new construction, including downtown Cleveland and using bus lanes through Public Square, the letter said. 

In an email, Calabrese said RTA and FTA are discussing possible solutions. 

"There have been, and continue to be, ongoing discussions among and between RTA, the City Administration, and the FTA, to develop a plan acceptable to all concerned," Calabrese said.

City officials closed Public Square in March 2015 for construction. It was supposed to reopen Aug. 1, 2016, to allow buses to travel along Superior Avenue but wasn't. 

It was announced in November that Public Square will remain closed. 

The FTA sent the RTA a letter to Aug.  10, 2016, warning them if Public Square was closed that they would have to pay the $12 million. A second letter was sent Oct. 12, 2016, notifying RTA of the breach of contract. 

During a Friday press conference, Mayor Frank Jackson said Public Square should remain closed citing safety and terrorism concerns. 

"Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) must demonstrate operational and financial harm caused by the closure of Superior Avenue through Public Square," Jackson later said in a statement. "In addition, RTA must develop a risk mitigation plan to address all the safety concerns set forth by the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) rules and regulations as seen in recent terror attacks on civilians in Nice, France, Columbus, Ohio, and Berlin as well as threats to downtown residents and visitors to Public Square. Again, this has been and remains our position.”