Collective Effort Under Way To Build Major Riverwalk

Imagine a few years from now having a massive walkway that will make it easier to hike, bike, kayak, run, boat, get shuttled to and from outdoor concerts, and do other waterfront activities along both sides of the Maumee River between downtown and East Toledo.

That’s the concept of the proposed Glass City Riverwalk officials hope to start building in 2022 if this area wins a highly competitive U.S. Department of Transportation grant intended to relieve congestion in many of America’s urban corridors.

The idea is to greatly expand and improve upon what little walkway exists now so there’s a lot more opportunity for non-vehicular movement and less traffic congestion in the vicinity of Promenade Park and other parts of downtown along Summit Street, International Park, and the future Glass City Metropark and the Marina Lofts apartment complex being built adjacent to it.

Metroparks Toledo’s board of park commissioners unanimously gave its consent Wednesday to be part of an application written by the Toledo Metropolitan Council of Governments. The city of Toledo also is part of it.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has $1 billion to disperse to communities nationally for such projects, through grants of up to $25 million. A non-federal match of 20 percent is required.

The local application will seek about $23 million in federal funding for the work, David Gedeon, TMACOG vice president of transportation, told the board.

“It’s a very, very strong application in my estimation,” Mr. Gedeon told the Metroparks Toledo board. “I believe we have a really good shot at this.”

A decision is expected by mid-September.

“We’ll keep our collective fingers crossed,” Scott Savage, Metroparks Toledo board president, said.

The money is coming from the federal transportation department’s program called Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD. They are for surface transportation infrastructure projects with “a significant local or regional impact,” according to a brief the Metroparks staff submitted to the board.

“BUILD grants will upgrade infrastructure across America, making our transportation systems safer and more efficient,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elain Chao said in a statement on the department’s website.

The riverwalk would be completed in phases over five years. With the BUILD grant, the focus will be on the broader part of the upcoming riverwalk, the memo states.

Initial work would include repairs to the existing seawall, transient docks, bicycle/pedestrian access, and a kayak share program.

The goal of kayaking is to promote a water recreational trail.

Though not currently included in the scope of work, some officials hope the project could be designed in a way to shuttle concert-goers and other large groups of people around downtown or East Toledo in autonomous, or self-driving, shuttles someday, too.

The regional planning agency has expressed some interest in the past with overall goals of DriveOhio, an initiative within the Ohio Department of Transportation to promote use of smart vehicles, according to Mr. Gedeon, who said such a program could help alleviate some parking and mobility issues. The immediate focus, though, is on building the riverwalk. Any such discussion on the possibility of using autonomous vehicles for shuttles would come up later, he said.

Others supporting the application include ConnecToledo, Destination Toledo, the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority, TARTA, and the University of Toledo.

The Metroparks board gave its blessing to the application in April, but was asked to give a second vote of approval when it was learned the park district would assume a higher match requirement.

The park district’s staff told the board last month the project “places an emphasis on quality of life and improving healthy lifestyles through alternative transportation that encourages energy efficiency practices, such as walking, bicycling, and transit.”

Dave Zenk, Metroparks Toledo executive director, said back then that the impetus for the project was a Brooking Institution report from the early 2000s which said port cities with walk-friendly downtown riverfronts tend to fare better economically.

Toledo’s greatest asset is its access to fresh water, and yet for generations we have squandered this natural advantage,” Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz told The Blade. “Quite literally, Toledo was built with its back to the Maumee River. Fortunately, people now understand how valuable our waterfront is to our future success, and projects like this will play a key role in attracting people and businesses to our community.”


Source: The Blade