Steven Litt is slowing down ODOT's "Racing to design a new bridge for I-90". Hallelujah!

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Wed, 07/05/2006 - 05:06.

When I saw last week a preview for the Thursday, June 29, 2006, WVIZ "Ideas" program featured PD Arts and Architecture columnist Steven Litt and Cuyahoga County Planning Director Paul Alsenas discussing the state of ODOT's plans for a new bridge to replace the current I-90 span across the Cuyahoga River, I thought I was having déjà vu. Yes, this was an issue a year ago... even six months ago, but since then ODOT had so thoroughly railroaded the bridge and trench planning process through the public mind-space that it seemed all topics of discussion about this near $billion project had moved completely behind closed doors and forgotten. Well, it seems Litt and Alsenas have very different ideas about that, as they shared in an excellent "Ideas" this week, and as Litt writes at length in today's Plain Dealer. Be sure to read that article... and great work on Ideas, Steven and Paul!!! Read on...

Anyone who reads REALNEO, or the PD, or any planning or economic development oriented publication, blog or website in town knows the planning of this ODOT bridge, and many other roadway improvements connected to that, has been a hot topic of serious contention for years - especially in the last year - among community leaders, government officials, the media and historic, design and planning professionals and activists. There is one great approach most enlightened people want, "a brilliant idea" is how Litt describes the vison, by Paul Alsenas, which is to build an entirely new "signature bridge" south of the current !-90 span. And, there is an insane proposal from ODOT to instead keep the current bridge and build a second I-90 bridge north of that, which will only have traffic leaving town, and to renovate the current I-90 bridge and keep that going for another 30 or 50 years, with all lanes coming into town, and then to eventually replace that bridge as well. With all that bridge construction and renovation will come lots of changes to the access roads and exits around the bridge, guaranteeing an unsightly mess for everyone for miles north, south, east, and west, for the next 100+ years... I told you it is an insane plan.

The good plan, originally devised by ingenious planner Alsenas and equally well supported by Litt, would bring one architectural masterpiece to the most important location in NEO - the span of the Cuyahoga, and move traffic away from the current tight quarters around our expensive Gateway neighborhood and downtown in general, bringing traffic below grade to hide it in important ways, opening up 100s of acres of land for important development around Gateway and the Flats, and over into Central - providing a massive infusion of much needed investment and wealth to our economy and allowing for creation of a new economy here in general, in the process. The only people I know of in opposition to this plan are wealthy land owners and developers and their backers, who want to exploit existing land they believe they can control around downtown and so they don't want any more land in play, and don't want to compete with new development opportunities in what will be better locations than exist today. This is certainly short sighted thinking, which seems to be failing to hold traction in the light of day, now shining bright in the Plain Dealer and on PBS.

There's lots of information in the book where this write up is posted - see links to the left and below - and at a special portal a group of activists support to explore this project, called - it may not be very current these days, as the community really lost hope that ODOT's course could be changed. But Litt and Alsenas clearly see otherwise, and now it is time for the community to really rally to their support. Here is how. Send a seriously thought out and original explanation of your opinion on these matters to Steven Litt, Paul Alsenas, the Plain Dealer, every politician you can think of (especially if they are running for office or running scared), WVIZ, Michael Gill at the Free Times, all the other media outlets, ODOT, the Port Authority and anyone else who may care or may not - I'll ask other supporters of positive change to put together a list of people who would like to hear from us, with their mail and email addresses and fax numbers, and we'll post them here and on NEObridge, along with some webforms and other tools for broad distribution. Register here or/and at NEObridge to make sure you get updates after that. That will be an excellent beginning.

If you wonder if that will make a difference, I guarantee to will. I had the opportunity to talk with Steven Litt about the bridge fiasco nearly a year ago and asked why he thought ODOT was able to railroad a bad solution through town, wiping out 100s of acres of invaluable land and demolishing many important historic buildings in the process, and he said it was because the public - we individuals in the community - did not show any organized opposition - we didn't show we care - so ODOT just did what they wanted. I saw Alsenas recently and he too feels the public needs to step up. From that perspective, if we don't express our opinions now, who are we to complain later, or ever. Well, Steven Litt and Paul Alsenas obviously didn't stop caring, and they are doing all they may to raise public awareness of what each have stated is the biggest mistake we will make in NEO in our lifetimes... both in allowing a really bad development here, and not pursuing a remarkable development.

You know what to do... reach out and speak up in concert. If you can't wait to get started, I suggest you write first to Steven Litt, at slitt [at] plaind [dot] com, and thank him for taking a public stand on this matter, and show your support for good alternatives for NEO. Copy that message to letters [at] plaind [dot] com, and letters [at] coolcleveland [dot] com, and Paul Alsenas at Palsenas [at] cuyahogacounty [dot] us, and I'd love if you copy me too, at realneo [at] inbox [dot] com

Here's the promo for the "Ideas" program on the bridge, which links to NEOBridge, which is a big surprise...


Premieres Thursday, June 29 at 8:00 PM on WVIZ/PBS
Rebroadcast Sunday, July 2 at 11:00 AM

Inner Belt Bridge
It's been talked about for most of a decade, and we're still years from a groundbreaking... when will planning for a new inner belt bridge over the Cuyahoga River be completed? This week, we take a look at some of the reasons for the hold up. We'll hear in-depth comments from both ODOT, which maintains that it's plans are going forward well, and hear from planners and experts who think the state's ideas for spending a quarter billion of your dollars may be all wrong.

On the July 29 episode of ideas, we spoke exclusively with two of the leading voices in the decision regarding how, what and where Cleveland's new innerbelt bridge over the Cuyahoga River should be built. Time limited what you could hear during the program, but we have made both men's interviews available to you, through this website.

Speaking for ODOT is Craig Hebebrand of District 12, headquartered in Garfield Heights. He is the project manager for the $800,000,000 innerbelt rehabilitation. As ODOT's point man, he is pushing for a northern alignment for the replacement bridge, a one-directional span to go between existing bridges, connecting at Ontario and Carnegie, near Jacobs Field. Listen to the MP3

Also speaking is Paul Alsenas, the Planning Director for Cuyahoga County. He has led the charge to have the 'new' bridge moved further south, away from downtown congestion. Listen to the MP3


norm, count me in for


count me in for writing a letter, but how can we coax the public into rallying support?

can we pass out some sort of provocative flyer at friday's cleve orchestra event on pubic square?
what would a provocative flyer look like and what would it need to say to convince the masses?  you've certainly got a www to point people too, but how do we get our point across in a succint manner that appeals to the masses..?

let me know b/c we can not let this die without a fight...

A really good idea for a bridge flyer...

Awesome, John, and I have a suggestion....

At the roundtable we had on the bridge it was suggested we do a postcard of what Cleveland would look like with a great southern bridge, and I still think that would be a perfect tool. I think Joe Stanley can help with the design and I'll see if Jaks Prints will rush something out... they're realneo members... but time is short... I'll see what I can get done later this afternoon... if you have any other ideas or anyone good in design turn them on and keep this posted. Peace.

Disrupt IT

Joe Stanley on flyer - focus on Ingenuity Festival

Okay, John, I spoke with Joe Stanley and he is going to work up a postcard design - "Visiting Cleveland 2020" - showing what the city may look like with a great southern bridge, replacing the Northern Alignment. While I know he can knock this out quickly, as he is a great talent (see - Joe and I talked about him pulling some angled sat views of Cleveland and then rendering out the current bridge and rendering in a new one, and that will be relatively easy. But it does not tell the story, as I see great things happening as a result of the realignment of the bridge, opening up the Central Valley where the Central Viadult long stood (and where ODOT wants to put their offensive bridge). Central Valley will include the Central Flats, which is an area now in the shadows of the current I-90 bridge, Central Tremont, anchored by the renovated Cold Storage and new development around that, Central Bluffs, east and west, being new development on the hills of each side of Central Flats, featuring a Central Stop on the Rapid line, to be located below the east bank Central Viaduct Ramparts, which will include a station in the lobby of University Central, to be the anchor for new economy learning, work, living and experience for this whole development project and community, connecting down to the Cuyahoga and up to the Gateway, which will border Central City, where the current "spaghetti bowl" of I-90 ramps are, which will extend through to current Central Neighborhood, being Major Jackson's old ward. So, the rendering and post card needs to convey the density of new economy development offered by relocating the bridge north, and opening up 100s - perhaps 1,000 - acres to higher and better use. Such great potential - such an alternative to the greater encrochment and blight proposed by ODOT in their planning - that is what we must communicate. This we can get rendered and post-carded well by Ingenuity Festival, and this can be part of the Sustainability activities planned there. Joe is working on the  art - anyone want to help enhance this 2020 visioning?
Disrupt IT

What are bridges for these days?

What are bridges for these days?By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News Magazine

No longer solely in the business of getting people from A to B across a waterway, bridges are now also about putting a place on the map and kick-starting wider investment.

Get bridge. Make bridge. Thrive.

Once upon a time bridges were all about getting people from one side of a river to the other.

Whether it was traders or workmen or retreating soldiers, bridges existed for a purely practical purpose. They might have been designed or built with great flair, using materials chosen to dazzle the observer, but they were, first and foremost, conceived because of man's inability to walk on water.

But in the past few decades, not just in Britain but also elsewhere in Europe , the bridge has started to be used as something more than a mere means of conveying traffic across water.

In dilapidated areas they are being used as emblems; glistening standards for major urban redevelopment projects.

The residents of Castleford, as part of a project chronicled by Channel 4, have got themselves a slinky new S-shaped footbridge across the fast-flowing River Aire.

Castleford is a former mining town, a former mill town, with some deprived areas. But it is also close to Leeds and close to the motorway and there is a belief that it can be economically successful again.

Gateshead example

A regeneration programme, part-inspired by Channel 4 and overseen by residents acting as "champions" for various projects, has a bridge at its heart.

"Anybody who wants to come into a place like Castleford has to be attracted by the potential," says Alison Drake, one of the champions.

"To not have access to the river or the views was a waste. The bridge has brought all that into play. You need to make a bold statement - the bridge makes that bold statement."

The centre of Castleford was previously accessible by a cramped road bridge and probably did need another way for pedestrians to get over the foaming and flood-prone Aire.

But the town can still be seen to have followed the example of Gateshead , which, a few years ago, built a bridge that many could have argued it didn't really need.

The Tyne is replete with bridges on the narrow stretch where the centre of Gateshead meets the centre of Newcastle . Prior to the opening of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge , it was easy to walk across from Newcastle into Gateshead .

But that did not stop the town fathers putting their weight behind a multimillion pound bridge that would really put Gateshead on the map.

Flash of confidence

"It was seen as part of a package of regeneration, it wasn't seen entirely as a transport project," says David Leeder, head of the council's Major Initiatives Team.

And since the bridge - better known as the Blinking Eye Bridge - was plonked down onto the Tyneside skyline at the tail end of 2000 by the giant floating crane Asian Hercules II, it has made its mark in two respects.

It is a Millennium project that was not greeted with derision in the press and it is a structure that has won numerous awards. It cost over £20m, half of it from the Millennium Commission, but the council feels it was money well spent.

Since the bridge opened in 2001, Gateshead has also seen half a dozen other big projects come to fruition, most notably the Sage music centre and the Baltic Art Centre. And with perhaps even more direct consequences for the citizens of Tyneside, the Baltic Business Quarter seems to be a concrete result of the redevelopment that the bridge led.

Somehow, building a flashy, expensive and not immediately necessary bridge led to a re-evaluation of an area that had been depressed for a long time. As one newspaper described the changes heralded by the bridge: "Geordie pride is being restored.”

"It is one [view] of the area that people photograph," says Mr Leeder. "The image of the bridge is a very striking image. It is very widely used on publicity photographs, and on all sorts of tourist mementoes. The bridge is integral. It is such a unique design. It doesn't look like any other bridge."

At the other end of the spectrum is the Millennium Bridge in London , which links St Paul 's and Southwark, and opened in June 2000.

The bridge should have been a triumph to complement the recently opened Tate Modern, but an excessive vibration led to a temporary closure. Its designers had wanted it to be nicknamed the "blade of light" but posterity will call it the "wobbly bridge".

Bridging communities

Castleford wants a bit of the Gateshead experience to guarantee its future, but there are places in Europe where there's even more at stake.

In Mostar in Bosnia , the Stari Most has stood imperiously over the Neretva for more than four centuries until it was deliberately blown up during the war in Bosnia in 1993. A Unesco-led project saw millions spent on restoring the bridge, not just to attract tourists or provide another crossing, but also to connect Bosniak and Croatian communities.

Esad Humo worked on the bridge project and is now the minister for economics in the local government.

"The bridge was a landmark of this area and this ancient bridge was very well-known all around the world. Destroying a bridge was a signal of the destroying of our connections and our past. To reconstruct the bridge, the idea was to reconstruct our connections."

And that is perhaps the greatest reason to build a bridge.