A New View: Exploring Cleveland from Beneath the Detroit-Superior Bridge

Friday, August 24, 2018

Once a year, the City of Cleveland opens closed-off portions of the city's Detroit-Superior Bridge to the public, including the old subway tunnels beneath the city and the pedestrian portion of the bridge itself. The tours are self-guided, though along the way, you'll find informational literature, documentary-style videos, & a few helpful folks to get you educated & answer your questions.

Our friend Darren turned 30 this week, & one of the things he wanted to do in celebration was explore this little-seen piece of the city. As someone who's always down for a local adventure, especially of the little-seen variety, I was all in.

We had no idea what to expect. Would it be really dark? Creepy? Muddy? We were about to find out!

Our first stop was in an old train car called Lady Rosie, named after Rosie the Riveter. It had seats like a train, but it felt more like a subway care - though we didn't recognize a single location on the stop map. Has Cleveland changed that much?! Streetcar service was discontinued in 1954, & when the subway tunnels were deemed unsuitable for vehicular traffic, the space was abandoned.

When it was first built in 1918, the Detroit-Superior Bridge (renamed the Veterans Memorial Bridge in 1989) was the world's largest double-deck concrete reinforced bridge, per the literature we received on-site. At 3,112 feet long, it features 12 concrete arches & clearance of 96 feet. 

The bridge was rehabilitated & reinforced  in the late 1960s & is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it's still heavily trafficked from the top deck, connecting Ohio City & downtown Cleveland by way of The Flats

The best part of the tour, in my opinion, was exploring the lower deck of the bridge, which is not typically open to foot traffic anymore... & maybe doesn't feel suuuuuper safe, though I'm sure the Department of Public Works made sure it was sturdy before they let thousands of people cross it this weekend. 

Pieces of the lower deck were removed during the bridge's reconstruction in the '60s, & though wooden planks have been placed over much of it, you can still see the mighty Cuyahoga River through the slats. I'm not afraid of heights, but this had me more than a little nervous!

The best part of the lower-deck walk - aside from the cool breeze blowing through it on a sunny day - were the views of the city. I know that some of you, fair readers, hail from places like the Pacific Northwest & New England, places known for their natural beauty. Cleveland... is not one of those places. But something about the rust belt views from this resilient city always get me right in the feelings.

By the way, that little boat you see floating on the Cuyahoga was named Novocain. A dentist's toy, perhaps? I'm always curious to know how people name their boats!

And one more thing: Though the lower portion of the bridge is no longer open to the public during most of the year, the top deck does have sidewalks for pedestrian crossing. In fact, it's the bridge that I ran across earlier this summer as part of my cycling studio's summer challenge! This was a much more leisurely visit, let me tell you.

Have you ever explored old, abandoned parts of your city like this? If you're local, tell me: What else do I need to see in Cleveland?! 

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