Cleveland, Ohio/Euclid Corridor Transportation Project

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Euclid Corridor Transportation Project

Cleveland, Ohio

(November 2000)

Description

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) is proposing to design and construct a 9.8-mile transit corridor incorporating exclusive bus rapid transit lanes and related capital improvements on Euclid Avenue from Public Square in downtown Cleveland east to University Circle. The proposed project is known as the Euclid Corridor Transportation Project (ECTP). The ECTP incorporates a series of transit improvements including an exclusive center median busway along Euclid Avenue from Public Square to University Circle, improvements to East 17th/East 18th Streets, as well as a “Transit Zone” on St. Clair and Superior Avenues utilizing exclusive transit lanes. The proposed busway will provide service to the University Circle area and continue into the City of East Cleveland, terminating at the Stokes/Windermere Rapid Transit Station. GCRTA proposes to operate sixty-foot articulated electric trolley buses (ETB) with both left and right-hand side doors for access and egress of patrons in the corridor. The ETBs will have access to the entire length of the Euclid corridor. However, conventional buses will not be able to access Euclid Avenue in the CBD. Total capital costs for the ECTP are estimated at $228.6 million (escalated dollars). GCRTA estimates that 29,500 average weekday boardings will use the ECTP in the forecast year (2025).

The proposed “Transit Zone” will be bounded by Superior Avenue, St. Clair Avenue, West 3rd Street and East 18th Street. The improvements to E. 17th/E. 18th Streets are anticipated to facilitate traffic flows into and out of the Transit Zone that will also function as north/south arterial roads connecting Euclid Avenue to St. Clair/Superior Avenues. E. 17th Street will be limited to transit and local auto traffic north of Euclid Avenue. E. 17th Street will also be extended from Prospect Avenue one block south for buses only. E. 18th Street will carry auto traffic only between the inner belt and the northern edge of the CBD.

Euclid Corridor Transportation Project Summary Description

Proposed Project Bus Rapid Transit Lanes
(7.34 miles – exclusive, 2.43 miles – mixed traffic) and related capital improvements
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $228.60 million
Section 5309 New Starts Share ($YOE) $135.00 million
Annual Operating Cost ($YOE) $1.30 million
Ridership Forecast (2025) 29,500 average weekday boardings
2,400 daily new riders
FY 2002 Financial Rating: Medium-High
FY 2002 Project Justification Rating: Medium
FY 2002 Overall Project Rating: Recommended

The Recommended rating is based on the project’s strong transit-supportive land use qualities and the strength of the project’s capital and operating plans. The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 2000. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As New Starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.

Status

Section 3035 of ISTEA authorized FTA to enter into a multiyear grant agreement for development of the Dual Hub Corridor, originally considered as a rail link between downtown and University Circle. In November 1995, the GCRTA Board of Trustees selected the ECTP as the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), which included a busway and the rehabilitation and relocation of several existing rapid rail stations. In December 1995, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (local Metropolitan Planning Organization) adopted a resolution supporting the ECTP. In mid-1999, GCRTA reconfigured the scope of the ECTP to incorporate only the construction of a busway along Euclid Avenue. The rapid rail elements have been eliminated from the ECTP proposal for Section 5309 New Starts funding. The environmental review process for the ECTP is scheduled for completion in Summer 2001.

Section 3030(a)(17) of TEA-21 authorized the “Euclid Corridor Extension” for final design and construction. Through FY 2001, Congress has appropriated $13.44 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds for the Euclid Corridor Transportation Project. Of this amount, $4.72 million was rescinded or reprogrammed by Congress.

Evaluation

The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA’s Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. With concurrence from FTA, a comparison to a TSM alternative was not completed. N/A indicates that data are not available for a specific measure.

FTA has evaluated this project as being in preliminary engineering. The project will be re-evaluated when it is ready to advance to final design and for next year’s Annual Report on New Starts.

Justification

The Medium project justification rating reflects the strength of the transit-supportive land use element and the anticipated travel time savings benefits associated with the project. The rating also acknowledges ECTP’s relatively poor cost-effectiveness in terms of new riders.

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium-High

GCRTA estimates 29,500 average weekday boardings, including 2,400 daily new riders, on the ECTP busway in 2025. GCRTA estimates the following annual travel time savings for the ECTP:

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 1.00 million hours N/A

Based on 1990 census data, there are an estimated 12,406 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the 22 proposed stations. This represents 55 percent of the total households within a ½ mile radius of the proposed stations.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

Cleveland is currently classified as a maintenance non-attainment area for ozone and a moderate non-attainment area for particulate matter (PM10). GCRTA estimates the following emission reductions for the ECTP as compared to the No-Build alternative.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) decrease of 71 annual tons N/A
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) decrease of 23 annual tons N/A
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) decrease of 19 annual tons N/A
Particulate Matter (PM10) decrease of 1 annual ton N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) decrease of 8,481 annual tons N/A

GCRTA estimates that the ECTP will result in the following decrease in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units – BTUs) compared to the No-Build alternative.

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) decrease of 76,146 million annual BTU N/A

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

GCRTA estimates the following systemwide operating costs per passenger mile in the year 2025 for the New Start compared to the No-Build alternative:

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (YOE) $0.63 N/A $0.63

Values reflect 2025 ridership forecast and YOE dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Low

GCRTA estimates the following cost effectiveness index:

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $26.90 N/A

Values reflect 2025 ridership forecast and YOE dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High land use rating reflects the strong existing land use and high trip generators in the Euclid Avenue Corridor, as well as transit-supportive policies within the Cleveland central business district (CBD) and much of the remainder of the corridor.

Existing Conditions: The downtown area adjacent to Euclid Avenue includes high-density commercial uses (office and retail), a theater district, the campus of Cleveland State University, and a professional sports complex. Several institutional and cultural uses are located in the University circle area, including Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and four museums. MidTown, located between the CBD and University Circle, is characterized by underutilized commercial and industrial land. Multi-family and single-family housing – situated on a grid street pattern – is located one to two blocks away from Euclid Avenue throughout most of the corridor. In 1995, total employment in the Cleveland CBD was approximately 120,000, while total employment in the corridor as a whole (a one-half-mile radius of the busway) was estimated at 207,000. Corridor population was estimated at 41,000. In addition, evidence of a reversal of previous downward population and employment trends is supported by recent increases in residential development in the Cleveland CBD and two corridor neighborhoods, and by commercial redevelopment in the MidTown area.

Future Plans and Policies: A wide range of city, small area and institutional plans have been developed that focus on promoting redevelopment and on creating a more pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented environment in the CBD and the Euclid Corridor. The city, including the MidTown area, also has a strong network of local development corporations and business organizations that act in partnership with the public sector in promoting redevelopment. Cleveland’s 1990 comprehensive plan calls fore rezoning of the corridor to convert industrial areas to office uses and to allow mixed-use activities. Zoning will be revised following an update of the comprehensive plan, which is now underway. Conceptual plans have been developed for some neighborhoods, with demonstrated examples of redevelopment activities that are consistent with these plans. Institutional plans also stress creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment and increasing institutional-related development in specific areas. Planning activities specific to the Euclid Corridor Transportation Project have also been undertaken. These include an economic development plan for the corridor, street design guidelines, and Transit-Supportive Principles and Development Guidelines that specify guidelines for transit-supportive building design and placement. At a regional level, some recent efforts are being demonstrated that support reinvestment in fully developed communities and existing infrastructure.

Other Factors

FTA BRT Demonstration Program: In August 1999, the Cleveland ECTP was selected as one of FTA’s ten Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Demonstration Projects. FTA’s BRT Demonstration Program is intended to foster the development of BRT systems in the United States; address BRT planning, implementation, and operational issues; and evaluate system performance in a wide range of operating environments.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 41%

The financial plan for the proposed Euclid Corridor Transportation Project includes $135 million (59 percent) in Section 5309 New Starts funds, $50 million (22 percent) in Flexible funds and $43.6 million (19 percent) in GCRTA and City of Cleveland funds.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High rating reflects the sound financial condition of GCRTA and the State of Ohio’s financial commitment to the ECTP. The rating also acknowledges FTA’s determination that GCRTA should re-evaluate the methodology that was used to develop the capital cost estimates for the project to ensure that adequate contingencies are in place to cover any unanticipated cost overruns associated with the project.

Agency Capital Financial Condition: The GCRTA is in good financial condition and is currently paying down debt incurred earlier in the 1990s to build the existing Waterfront light rail extension project. In addition, the agency’s major funding source (sales tax revenues) continues to grow at a faster than estimated rate solidifying the agency’s strong financial condition. GCRTA maintains a well-managed re-capitalization program for the agency’s bus fleet. According to GCRTA’s bus fleet management plan, the average of the agency’s buses is 7.9 years.

Capital Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Based upon FTA’s review of the methodology that was used to develop the capital cost estimates for the ECTP, FTA has determined that GCRTA should re-evaluate the current capital cost estimate to ensure that adequate escalation rates and contingency factors are in place to account for any unanticipated cost overruns associated with the planned procurement of the dual-mode electric trolley vehicles.

Existing and Committed Funding: At this time, 100 percent ($93.6 million) of the non-Section 5309 New Starts share has been committed to the ECTP via the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Transportation Review Advisory Commission, the City of Cleveland and GCRTA. The City and GCRTA have executed an interagency agreement that outlines the City’s financial contribution ($17 million) to the ECTP.

New and Proposed Sources: Only existing sources are proposed for the construction of the ECTP.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High rating reflects the healthy operating condition of GCRTA. Revenues to operate the proposed ECTP are considered strong.

Agency Operating Condition:The GCRTA has managed to fully fund the operations of its existing system during a period of expansion. In 1997, ridership increased by four percent over 1996. Both bus and rail ridership increased for the first time since 1990. The increased ridership is attributed to special events in downtown Cleveland and a generally improved regional economy. Sales tax revenues rose by five percent on average per year between 1988 and 1997. GCRTA estimates annual increases of three percent beginning in the year 2000.

Operating Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Annual operating and maintenance costs - estimated at $1.3 million (escalated dollars) - are considered reasonable. However, it should be noted that while the proposed project replaces existing bus service along Euclid Avenue with electric trolley buses (ETB), the increased operation and maintenance costs associated with the ETBs is anticipated to be covered by existing sources.

Existing and Committed Funding: All proposed operating revenues for the ECTP are existing and committed to the project. The operating plan for the ECTP projects an operating surplus of $12 million in the project’s opening year (2004). Assumptions included in the 20-year cash flow analysis are based on historic funding levels and growth rates that appear to be reasonable. These funds are considered stable and reliable.

New and Proposed Sources: All proposed operating revenues currently exists. No new sources are needed.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
($million)
Appropriations to Date
Federal:
Section 5309 New Starts $135.00 $13.44 million appropriated through FY 2001.
$4.72 million rescinded or reprogrammed.
State:
Flexible Funds $50.00 N/A
Local:
GCRTA $26.60 N/A
City of Cleveland $17.00 N/A
Total: $220.00

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

Euclid Corridor Map of proposed 9.8-mile transit corridor incorporating exclusive bus rapid transit lanes and related capital improvements on Euclid Avenue from Public Square in downtown Cleveland east to University Circle.