Sunday, August 10, 2014

Columbus Road Bridge, Cleveland

Flats Industrial Railroad Bridge
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A couple of years ago, I was in Cleveland for a weekend and ended up with a bunch of bridge photos, which slowly trickled out in a long series of blog posts. I thought I was done with those, but it turned out I had a so-so photo of one more bridge, so obviously another blog post was in order. The Columbus Road Bridge isn't the main bridge in the photo above, but the one in the background that you see straight on. It crosses the Cuyahoga at the apex of a bend in the river, right next to the Cleveland Union Terminal bridge, which carries the Rapid Red Line. As I said, the photo isn't that great, but it's still a sort of collector's item. I didn't get close enough to the bridge to notice this, but apparently it was in an advanced state of disrepair, and the county decided to replace it. It sounds like the bridge approaches were kept and renovated, but the lift span itself was demolished and replaced. It's not clear whether this means they also replaced the towers and counterweights, or just the lift span, but in any case the bridge closed for demolition work last May, and the shiny new span was floated down the river and installed this July, just a couple of weeks ago.

A history page notes that the then-current bridge was the fifth at this location. The first was nearly destroyed by angry westside protesters, who feared the new bridge would divert commerce away from the original Center St. Bridge and thus away from the Ohio City area. As the story goes, westside residents boycotted the new bridge, and the city of Cleveland retaliated by demolishing its half of the Center St. Bridge, leaving the Columbus one as literally the only bridge in town. An angry mob showed up to destroy the Columbus bridge, chanting "Two bridges or none", but they were stopped by the mayor of Cleveland and a group of armed militiamen.

An 1857 replacement for the original bridge quickly rotted and collapsed in 1863. An 1870 replacement lasted to 1894, when it was replaced with a double swing span bridge. In this arrangement, the bridge separated in the middle, and the two halves swung off to the side in opposite directions. This lasted until 1939, when it was replaced with a lift span bridge (i.e the one pictured above) as part of a larger project to improve navigation on the river. The lift span lasted much longer than its predecessors, but was poorly maintained beginning in the 1980s, and decayed to a point where it was cheaper to replace it than to attempt repairing it. The 2014 bridge is scheduled to open in October; it's a lift span and is basically similar to its predecessor, but features 5' wide bike lanes as this is apparently a major bike commuting route.

This is actually the second Cleveland bridge that's been replaced since I was there, the other being the Innerbelt Bridge. I'm kind of thinking I may need to go back soon just to keep this blog up to date. By which I mean, enjoy some beer and pierogies, hit the West Side Market again, and keep this blog up to date.

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