Port of Cleveland and NOACA seek $11.5 million federal grant for Irishtown Bend

The Port of Cleveland and the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) have applied for a federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant to help pay for new bulkheads as part of the Irishtown Bend project. The grant application seeks $11.5 million in INFRA funds to stabilize the hillside that sits on the banks of the Cuyahoga River and protect the $3.5 billion and 20,000 jobs generated locally by maritime commerce.

The U.S. Department of Transportation will award INFRA grants to “support the administration’s commitment to fixing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure by creating opportunities for all levels of government and the private sector to fund infrastructure, using innovative approaches to improve the necessary processes for building significant projects and increasing accountability for the projects that are built.”

Engineering studies commissioned by the port have shown a serious threat of catastrophic collapse of the Irishtown Bend hillside into the river, which would shut down shipping and threaten decades of efforts to rehabilitate the Cuyahoga’s environmental quality. The application for INFRA dollars for Irishtown Bend is an innovative approach to solve a long-term threat to the local economy from the type of “crumbling infrastructure” that INFRA was intended to address.

“The Port of Cleveland has been working for years to develop an innovative solution to the Irishtown Bend situation. We saw INFRA as an opportunity to fund part of that solution, even though transportation grants are more commonly used for roads, bridges and highways,” said Will Friedman, port President and CEO. “We said, ‘Why not maritime transportation?’ Most global commerce is shipped by water and more than two billion metric tons of foreign and domestic cargo worth $2.5 trillion move through American ports. It’s critical for our national and local economies that we continue to invest in maritime infrastructure, and Irishtown Bend is a great example.”

The Cuyahoga River is a federal navigation channel and part of the federal M-90 Marine Highway Corridor, which qualifies under the INFRA guidelines. If approved, the INFRA dollars would be matched by $10.5 million in local dollars already pledged by the State of Ohio, City of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD). Once the hillside is stabilized, it will safeguard the local maritime economy—but it will also set the stage for a transformative park project long envisioned on the abandoned hillside.

The port continues to be a key partner in the park-planning effort for Irishtown Bend. Using a previous grant from NOACA, the port and other partners—including Ohio City Inc., City of Cleveland, LAND studio, State of Ohio, Ohio Department of Transportation, NEORSD, Cuyahoga County—have engaged planning and landscape design professionals to develop a vision to integrate public access, trails and public amenities within the 17-acre Irishtown Bend site. A vision plan has now been developed through a public process in order to propel development once the hillside is stabilized. The park will also provide a key link in the regional network of trails for recreation and bicycle commuting.

“NOACA is pleased to partner with the port and lead the grant application process in an effort to stabilize Irishtown Bend and safeguard our local maritime transportation access—as well as our local economy,” said Grace Gallucci, Executive Director of NOACA. “We are also pleased to have been able to fund the planning work required for the visioning of the hillside as a park and its role in the regional trail network, as it aligns with NOACA’s recent long-range plan and focus on incorporating alternatives to automobile transportation.”

Maritime Editorial