Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Cleveland’s Dead Man’s Curve

Cleveland's Dead Man's Curve, I-90 Westbound
Dead Man’s Curve is one of those Cleveland landmarks that was never intended to be a landmark. The near 90-degree curve is where I-90 takes a hard left where it splits off with Ohio Route 2 westbound, or with a hard right for drivers going eastbound. Constructed in 1959 as part of the Innerbelt project (which started in 1954), it opened with a speed limit of 50 miles per hour. With this speed being far to fast for a curve so severe, it didn’t take long for the curve to become a high accident area. The speed limit was dropped to 35 mph in 1965, and in 1969, the curve was modified to include a banked turn, with improved signs and rumble strips in the road.

Despite the fact that, years later, the signs, rumble strips, 35 mph speed limit plus added concrete barriers are still in place, inevitably someone – seemingly most often truckers – misjudge the curve and wind up losing control. This can create horrific traffic snarls that affect people trying to get out of, and through, the city. The Innerbelt itself gets in excess of 120,000 vehicles a day, many of those vehicles passing through Dead Man’s Curve.

A few years ago, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) made proposals for improvements with the Innerbelt, including smoothing out Dead Man’s Curve. The Innerbelt project as a whole continues to be analyzed and disputed by many due to its potential effects on businesses by the changing of exits, and the possible effects on structures that are currently in the way of the new Innerbelt Bridge configuration. While no one seems to disagree that Dead Man’s Curve remains a dangerous area, the changes to the Innerbelt and Shoreway that need to take place in order to accomodate improvements are also in dispute.
Cleveland's Dead Man's Curve, I-90 Eastbound

In the meantime, the Innerbelt Bridge, made in the same style as the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed in August of 2007, continues to deteriorate. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on December 19, 2007:

“The Ohio Department of Transportation originally planned to build a new Interstate 90 bridge over the Cuyahoga River, then rehab the existing 48-year-old bridge, estimated to cost more than $140 million. But the state will speed up its repair plan and delay building the new bridge.

So in just more than two years, motorists will face this:

Eastbound and westbound traffic lanes on the bridge -- the main artery into and through downtown Cleveland -- will be reduced from four to two in each direction to make room for the work. Besides the deterioration, another reason for the change is that planning for the new bridge is taking longer than expected. So, if ODOT stuck with its original schedule, work to rehab the existing bridge wouldn't start until 2016 or 2017.…ODOT is waiting for federal highway officials to review and approve a draft of the overall Inner Belt plan, which includes softening Dead Man's Curve and improving the flow of traffic through the accident-prone "trench" in Midtown in part by reducing on and off ramps.”

So, we wait. But in the meantime, let’s all slow down and have respect for the REAL Dead Man’s Curve in Cleveland. And while you’re at it, you can watch and listen to the video below from YouTube, with Jan and Dean’s song about the fictional Dead Man’s Curve. Just don't watch while you're driving.

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