Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cleveland: City of Bridges

It is almost impossible to get from one side of Cleveland to the other without having to cross a bridge. And there are several beautiful bridges in town. While people spend a lot of time crossing OVER them, they don’t always get a good look at the bridge itself.

Here are a few ground level views of some of Cleveland’s most notable bridges.

The Veterans Memorial Bridge (AKA The Detroit-Superior Bridge)

The Veterans Memorial Bridge, completed in 1918, is 3,112 feet (949 meters) long, and stretches over the Cuyahoga River. The bridge got its initial name (Detroit-Superior Bridge) because it connects Detroit Avenue on Cleveland's west side, and Superior Avenue on Cleveland's east side. It is a compression arch suspended-deck bridge, and at the time it was completed, it was the largest steel and concrete reinforced bridge in the world.

The bridge has an upper level for road traffic and a lower level for streetcars, which closed after streetcar operations ceased in 1954. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since January 18, 1974.

The Main Avenue Bridge

The Main Avenue Bridge, opened in October 1939, and connects the east and west Shoreway. “The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History” says “During the primary 1938-39 construction, workers utilized over 24,000 tons of steel and 55,000 cubic yards of concrete to build the cantilever truss crossing. The 271' girders over the railway tracks on the lakefront ramp represented the longest span girders ever built in the nation at the time. 5 workers died over the course of the project, which cost $7.5 million. The structure was rededicated in honor of former Cleveland Mayor Harold H. Burton in 1986. On 13 April 1991 the bridge was closed for major renovation by Cuyahoga County and the Ohio Dept. of Transportation. The $65 million project included the widening of the bridge's traffic lanes from 10 to 12', installation of a new 400-watt sodium vapor lighting system, construction of a new 42" traffic median, drainage reconstruction, and repair or replacement of deteriorated steel. One worker died during the project. The bridge reopened 16 Oct. 1992, and in 1995 carried an average daily traffic volume of 45,647 automobiles.”

The Hope Memorial Bridge (AKA The Lorain-Carnegie Bridge)
The Hope Memorial Bridge is 5,865 foot (1,787 meter) long, also stretching over the Cuyahoga River. Like the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, Hope Memorial got its original name because it links Lorain Avenue on Cleveland's west side and Carnegie Avenue on the east side. It is an art deco truss bridge, and was completed in 1932 after construction delays due to disagreements about how funding would be used. Huge statues, called the “Guardians of Traffic” (designed by sculptor Henry Hering and architect Frank Walker) stand on pylons, a pair at each end of the viaduct, symbolizing progress in transportation.

The bridge received a much needed renovation in the 1980s, and renamed in honor of William Henry Hope, a local stonemason and father of Bob Hope. The renaming has been a sore subject with some long time Clevelanders, who objected to a bridge of such stature to be named after someone so insignificant to the city’s history and to the history of the bridge itself. An interesting piece from the Wikipedia, (with quote credit back to the Cleveland Plain Dealer from “Bridge of hopes", Dec. 1, 2002) said, “It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on October 8, 1976, after a controversy where County Engineer Albert Porter threatened to remove the historic pylons to widen the span, claiming "Those columns are monstrosities and should be torn down and forgotten. There is nothing particularly historic about any one of them. We're not running a May Show here." Clearly Mr. Porter was wrong.

The Innerbelt Bridge
The I-90 Innerbelt Bridge also spans the Cuyahoga River, and swings to the east of the Cleveland city skyline. It has recently sparked much controversy, partly due to plans to shift the bridge’s location, and also about its safety due to ongoing deterioration. As it was built in the same style (steel truss arch) as the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed in August of 2007, the Innerbelt Bridge received closer inspection and it was discovered that two steel gusset plates had buckled about an inch, with other gussets showing significant deterioration. Hopefully, the city will quickly find a solution to building a new span while maintaining the current span, with its huge volume of traffic.

All of these bridges make great additions to the Cleveland skyline, when viewed at ground level. If you have the chance, take the time to appreciate these beautiful structures that carry thousand and thousands of Clevelanders – and others – each day.

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1 comment:

Tammy said...

Between my grandfather, uncles and dad at least one person in my family has helped build, or rebuild, every Cleveland bridge!