Posted August 19, 2017 in Articles
Author: Thomas Ondrey, The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Clevelanders turned out in force on Saturday for the return of the annual walk back into their own transit history, the Veterans Memorial Bridge and Subway Tour.
It was the first time the popular event has been offered since 2013. An unofficial early count by organizers put Saturday's crowd at more than 10,000.
The main attraction is the opportunity to see the lower deck of the venerable 3,112-foot-long span across the Cuyahoga River, linking Superior and Detroit avenues. Here streetcars once rattled across, carrying commuters in the days when the suburbs were still farm towns and the interstate highway system was not yet an Eisenhower dream.
Postwar changes in Cleveland eventually led to the discontinuation of the streetcar lines, with service across the bridge ending in 1954. No one since has come up with a viable use for the lower deck of the 1918 bridge, although it has been home to a few festivals in recent years, so it remains closed except for these once-a-year glimpses to a public still interested in a bygone era.
The Cuyahoga County Department of Public Works, keeper of the bridge, set up theaters to view vintage photos and footage of the streetcar line "back in the day," and the subway stations at the West 25th Street end of the bridge were lit up for visitors making the self-guided, free tour. Elsewhere, tour takers could stand on platforms suitable for seeing and photographing the Flats below from angles not normally available. Boats on the Cuyahoga River below could be glimpsed through a spider web of steel girders.