Bridges Connecting Northcoast Harbor

Northcoast Harbor

There have been two bridge proposals in the North Coast Harbor area. Both are tantalizingly close to being realized but still face hurdles. Both bridges have been designed by Miguel Rosales of the firm, Rosales and Partners. Other examples of Mr Rosales’ work can be seen at www.rosalespartners.com.

The North Coast Harbor bridge is needed to close a loop around the Inner Harbor. The span to close the loop is about 90 feet. A federal grant for about 3/4 of the estimated $5 million was awarded in 2005. The original design was not accepted due to its high percentage of foreign components and costs that were approaching $10 million. A clam shell design has been submitted and approved. Steve Litt of the PD characterizes the support for this design as “underwhelming.”

The Lakefront Pedestrian Bridge is designed to connect the northeast corner of Mall C with the Rock Hall and Great Lakes Science Center. The bridge would be 900 feet long and 14 feet wide. A 170 foot high V shaped tower would anchor an array of cables to hold up the bridge. The array of cables would be “strung like harp strings.” The sides of the bridge appear to have continuous rails and posts that support a chain link like fence on the sides and overhead clear panels that would partially shield against the elements. The bridge is not straight. It would curve gently between its start and end.

Iconic: The desire to have an “iconic” design on our lakefront is frequently mentioned by supporters of the project.

Cost and Funding: Total cost is estimated at $33 million. 10 million would come from the City, 10 million from the County, and 5 million from the State. We would note that an application for a Federal grant for $17.6 million in 2013 was rejected. This was the
3rd time Federal agencies had rejected an application for this this project. Hence the need for mostly local funding.

History: Bridges/connectors over the the railroad tracks in this area have been a goal of Cleveland planning since the railroads appeared in the late 1850’s. At that time, the shoreline was very close to where the tracks are. The Memorial Shoreway (Rt 2) was constructed in the late 30’s. The area north of the freeway (Rock Hall, Stadium, Burke Airport) was constructed with infill. We have bridges at W 3rd and E 9th Streets. The old connector bridge over the tracks that leads to 1st Energy Stadium has been closed as traffic patterns changed.Lack of wheelchair accessibility is also a problem. This 1940’s connector could still function if reworked. The cost would be considerably less than the Rosales bridge. It could be a complement to the Rosales bridge as it could handle more adverse weather.

Exposure to the elements: Previous visions for connecting the Mall to the Rock Hall emphasized protection against the elements (wind, rain, snow.) The current proposal is quite exposed to the elements over the course of its 900 foot expanse.

Local funding: We have noted the lack of federal funding for this project. We doubt that $20 million has been spent on any waterfront project (or two) other than the Rock Hall. We hope that there are local funds for other areas of the waterfront if this project goes thru. We would hate to think that this project would “tap us out” for a period of 5 to 10 years. We are reminded of the RTA Waterfront Line which did not apply for federal funding and relied on internal RTA financing. The Waterfront Line has had ridership problems and been a drag on the RTA’s finances.

As of April 13, 2016, the State is ready to approve $3.5 of the $8.5 million dollars that was requested by the Greater Cleveland Partnership. The $5 million balance remains to be financed.

Conclusion: We don’t doubt the cosmetic appeal of this project. We wish it offered more protection against the elements. We hope it is an example of our commitment to a connected waterfront. Connecting the waterfront with itself (east-west) and the city (north-south) is necessary for a great waterfront. We find it hard to imagine starting over with another design. Steve Litt of the PD wrote a column in January 2017 where he said that an intermodal (think Greyhound, Amtrak, RTA) transit hub in the area of the Amtrak station is being planned. He thinks the bridge should take the hub into account. In other words, wait for a plan for the hub. It is hard to argue with that.

– John Veres