Cleveland’s Bridges

I was surprised how many bridges there are in Cleveland, as I’ve always considered it a flat city.  There are several bridges across the Cuyahoga River which flows through the city, but there are also many bridges elsewhere in the city.  These other bridges cross over railroad tracks or the highways or are railroads and highways crossing over regular roads.  This realization (that even flat cities have can have lots of bridges) is causing me to reconsider what bridges are significant.  For instance in the claim that Pittsburgh has more bridges than Venice, if Pittsburgh has more bridges because highway overpass bridges are included in the count then is that kind of cheating as there was no geological reason for those bridges?  In other words, when cities compete for who has the most bridges, it seems like it would only be fair to count the ones that exist because of geological formations.  On the other hand, this almost sounds like I am calling some bridges more natural than others, but as they are all man-made how can any be natural?  Anyway, this is something to ponder.

In the meantime, I’ll return to Cleveland’s Bridges.  I did not cross over any of the river bridges while I was visiting recently.  Instead, I went under them on the Goodtime III boat tour of the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie.  As seen on the map above, the boat entered the river in the upper left-hand corner, traveled downriver for over three miles (though as the bird flies it was only about 1.75 miles), and turned around in the last “corner” of the river seen in the lower right-hand corner.  In the process, we passed under 13 bridges, while a 14th bridge swung out of our way.

While I call Cleveland a flat city, there are at least two significant changes in elevation.  One is located out by University Circle and though it continues farther out, I am most familiar with it because it separates the frats and some dorms of Case Western Reserve University’s southern campus from the rest of the campus.  This is a moraine formed by glaciers during the last ice age (or so I’ve been told).  The second elevation change is next to downtown.  The Flats district along the river is significantly lower than the surrounding areas, including downtown and whatever the neighborhood on the western side of the river is.


All the bridges we traveled under on the Cuyahoga River were interesting and unique, at least compared to the bridges in Pittsburgh.  About half the bridges were railroad bridges.  The railroads tended to travel along the flats and so crossed the river with very low clearance.  To allow the passage of larger vessels, such as the one we were on, these bridges raised and lowered like elevators.  On the other hand, the bridges carrying roads were very tall as they traveled at the height of downtown and the western neighborhoods.  This also meant that most of them were very long as they not only crossed the river, but also crossed the flats which were sometimes very broad.

This bridge was the only one of its kind on the river.  Instead of raising and lowering like all the other low clearance bridges, this one rotates in either direction to swing out of the way of boats.

Here was a railroad bridge higher than the others.  Though it still had the mechanisms for rising up, if it needed to, it appeared that our boat was short enough to pass under without this.  A car bridge passes over this bridge before passing over the river as well, however this one will be demolished in the near future, after the one under construction is finished.

These bridges were interesting as they were two railroad bridges right next to each other, which seemed rather odd.  My theories for this are that either the tracks belong to different railroad companies or one was built first and then the railroad grew, expanding to two tracks, and instead of replacing the bridge with one for two tracks just built a second one right next to the first.  Either way, it’s a sight you don’t see every day.

Though Pittsburgh’s Fort Duquesne Bridge is nicknamed “The Bridge to Nowhere” (see June 19th post), this Cleveland bridge deserves the title more as the road or railroad it used to connect across the river no longer exists.  I wonder why they keep the bridge in place, when its purpose is gone.  It seems to me that this could easily become a hazard as the bridge weathers and there is no reason to maintain it.  In the meantime, before it comes crashing down, it does make an entertaining sight.



And of course, since I was passing underneath the bridges, I had to take a shot at the undersides!

One thought on “Cleveland’s Bridges

  1. Pingback: What is a Bridge? | urbantraipsing

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