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The Sound of Ideas

New Cleveland Designs

Posted Tuesday, August 10, 2010

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New Cleveland Designs When money is an object, there's a balance between creating a signature statement with new construction projects, such as the Innerbelt bridge in Cleveland, and building something functional without going broke. On the next Sound of Ideas, we'll talk about ODOT's design options for the bridge as well as plans for a new convention center and a Museum of Contemporary Art. How big-ticket projects look can say a lot about a region, and about what it can afford. Let us know what you think, Tuesday morning at 9:00 on 90.3.


Arts and Culture, Government/Politics, Other, Community/Human Interest, Transportation


Steven Litt, art and architecture critic, The Plain Dealer
Scott Varner, spokesman, Ohio Dept. of Transportation
Paul Alsenas, director, Cuyahoga County Planning Commission
Ronald A. Reed, FAIA, IIDA, Principal, Westlake Reed Leskosky

Additional Information

Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center Progress Update (PDF)
Cleveland Innerbelt Bridge
Museum of Contemporary Art

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Norman 8:07 AM 8/10/10

Recently I was lucky enough to see video of the new museum’s black surface on a building in St. Louis and it changed my opinion completely from “lump of coal” to “dynamic architectural statement”.  Kudos to the museum Board for encouraging a such visionary building in Cleveland.

Mike Larkin 8:27 AM 8/10/10

Why all the lanes? Do we really have that much traffic?  If that is the case some cities would need 40 lanes.  ODOT could save a lot of money to put toward a new bridge if they wouldn’t put up those stupid sound walls.  And what is with these new electronic message boards going up?  Do we really nned those to tell us traffic will be slow when it is snowing?

David in Elyria 8:27 AM 8/10/10

Much can be said about how much to spend and what this future bridge should look like but it should ultimately move traffic. I look to the Hope memorial bridge. This old bridge is just a simple span with enough flair to be unique and interesting yet at the same time it effectively moves traffic across the river and it has since 1932. Can we look into Cleveland’s past to make for a better future?

scelina 8:29 AM 8/10/10

Won’t the cable arch drop ice on the road it is bridging? Problems with cable bridges in cold climates?

doug paige 8:38 AM 8/10/10

I question the selection of pictures for option C.
It’s very difficult to reference the three views and tell what the bridge will look like. There is a massive plain section with a small arch area that does not show up in the overall view? Are these the only shots submitted by the firms.

john kelly 8:38 AM 8/10/10

Why in the world doesn’t ODOT extend 490 to the north, hooking it up with the shoreway somewhere near E.72nd, thereby allowing trucks passing through town to avoid the downtown area/dead man’s curve.  If this is done, you could build a more elegant bridge since you’d be eliminating so much traffic.

Jake from Tremont 8:38 AM 8/10/10

In addition to being aesthetically unpleasing, these bridge designes all miss a huge opportunity to add a bicycle lanes and/or a light rail line.  It’s embarrassing that our city full of bridges does not have a single one recognizable as a landmark structure.

Jon Eckerle 8:42 AM 8/10/10

We need a button on the ODOT site that says NO. All three designs are boring.

Maureen 8:52 AM 8/10/10

Very interesting show.  IMHO, the bridge needs to be 1) iconic 2) a statement for the city 3) an entry way to other iconic architectural structures the city has to offer such as Pei’s RRHFM, Gehry’s Peter B. Lewis Bldg at Case and the soon to be MOCA home.
Time and cost, yes.  But more importantly and a major block to anything Clevleand tries to do is that many Clevelanders and the leaders seem reluctant to draw attention to themselves or the city, probably because whenever that happens, the attention is often negative. So Clevelanders don’t want to risk it.  They seem to want to stay in the background because attention might be painful. As a result projects are done the safe way (or not at all), however boring that result is.  It’s not a city of risktakers and that translates to a whole host of issues in trying to move the city and the region forward. I’m not a native, but have lived here for years and see so much positive and so much potential, that it’s frustrating not to see the city recognized for the incredible assets it has. But I think we hold ourselves back with decisions like we seem to be moving toward with the bridge project.  Just another example.

In the end, it goes back to the question that’s been asked so many times before, how do we change attitudes?

julie 8:54 AM 8/10/10

A caller referred to the Hope Memorial Bridge.  This encapsulates a pet peeve of mine, Cleveland’s general dismissal of its own history; it should be named the Wilbur Watson Bridge.  Watson was not just this bridge’s structural engineer, he was a seminal figure in civil engineering.  To quote the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:

“Watson developed a carefully stated philosophy of the relationship between engineering and aesthetics and used structural and reinforced concrete to produce some of the most beautiful BRIDGES in northern Ohio. He helped set standards for bridge construction across the country.”

chris 9:32 AM 8/10/10

The kind of discussion occurring this morning regarding the Innerbelt is typical as it does not include regular people who drive to work everyday.  Your panel includes an ODOT official, a statehouse reporter and the architecture critic of the Plain Dealer.  Respectfully, none has a “real job,” and none is discussing the needs of real people who just want a safe road that can handle the traffic going over it. 

The discussion I heard misses many fundamental truths about the Innerbelt.  First, it is a part of the interstate system.  People driving from Buffalo to Chicago don’t care about a beautiful bridge.  They only know they don’t want to get caught in Cleveland traffic and they don’t want to have to slow to 35 mph to go around “dead man’s curve.”

Second, commuters in the Cleveland area know they want to get where they’re going fast.  What regular people want is a bridge with 8 or 10 lanes in each direction, or at least enough lanes so that there is never a bottleneck. People want the work to be completed as quickly as possible, meaning crews work 24/7 until it is done, not six hours a day five days a week.  Ok, maybe they take a break 2 hours in the morning and two in the evening for rush hour.  Commuters want the work to be of such quality that it doesn’t have to be repaved every two years.  And given the volume of salt applied to the roads, this is not easy (That is another problem with a two word answer: snow tires).  .  However, paving technology does exist that would extend the life of roads as much as five-fold over what is actually used.  The political will is necessary to spend more on long lasting paving and less on labor every few years. 

How about addressing the needs of regular people?

Gregory Soltis 10:20 AM 8/11/10

Dear SOI,

Thanks so much for doing this program on these design projects.  Please continue to expose ODOT!  It would be an incredible travesty if any of these less than mediocre designs get built.  It is a joke that ODOT even released those renderings asking for us to pick one.  They all are incredibly disappointing!  What infuriates me is that our hard earned tax dollars are paying for bunk produced by a bureaucratic, wasteful and unimaginative government agency.  I OBJECT!  START OVER AND BRING SOMETHING TO THE TABLE THAT IS WORTH THE PRICETAG!
Something needs to be done, so please have more programming about this scam that ODOT is trying to pull on us.


Gregory Soltis

Paul 1:14 AM 8/12/10

I agree with Mr. Larkin - WHY DO WE NEED TWO BRIDGES?  Is there really that much traffic?  One good, well designed bridge seems like it should be enough, and there would be less disruption of neighborhoods like mine (Tremont) and less of a “wall” separating downtown. If there was so much traffic, perhaps people would consider other options like bicycles or public transit, like in a real city.  We are making it easier to speed through Cleveland, when we should ENCOURAGE people to SLOW DOWN.  As it is, all 3 designs are pretty boring.  The ODOT spokesperson mentioned that they could combine the best elements of all 3, and I’m thinking, “design by committee?” Not a good idea.  Good design builds upon a small number of basic themes, not a collection of the coolest ideas. Take a look at a 1958 Edsel, and I think we can get a vision of what we will get.

Jim Ridge 12:30 PM 8/12/10

Thanks to Sound of Ideas for providing a forum for this important project that will impact Cleveland and northeast Ohio for the next half century.  Good design DOES matter, and one hopes decision-makers will have the wisdom and insight to arrive at a wise choice.  For a ‘rower’s perspective’ on the current crop of bridges spanning the Cuyahoga River, check out

DANIEL UHLAR 11:08 AM 8/13/10

The ODOT has been steadfast in its position there would be no bike lane on the new Innerbelt bridge.  Is this a dead issue or is there any possibility the ODOT will come to their senses and allow a quality bike lane design.


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