CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A battle between serving the needs of boaters and pedestrians-- If you’re headed downtown for the Draft you’ll see a new bridge along Cleveland’s lakefront.
But, did the City do the best possible job of making it smooth sailing for people on land and others at sea?
The new pedestrian draw bridge connects the pier behind the Great Lakes Science Center to Voinovich Park.
Kimberly Benyo works at Nuevo, a restaurant that sits right on the edge of the park.
“This is a fantastic way for people to omit some of the walking for people who wouldn’t be able to make that trip,” she said.
And, Rick Fryan captains the equally popular Goodtime sightseeing boat that runs along the lakefront.
He says, “We are excited about another bridge. I think the pedestrian bridge will pull together dock 30 and 32. It will give them another way to get into Voinovich Park.”
The Goodtime parks inside the harbor during the off season and was one of the first boats to come through the draw bridge this spring, excited for this season as the COVID threat dissipates..
“We’re hoping that our restrictions end up getting lifted, just like the bridge,” Fryan said.
Fryan says the process of going through the new bridge was easy, but he understands the potential difficulty it could cause casual boaters this summer.
“No doubt about it, there are going to be people on both sides of this subject- instead of an issue- I hate to call it an issue,” he said.
When parallel to the water, the bridge is about 90 feet long.
At 12.3 million dollars for the whole project that’s about $137,000 per square foot of it.
Taxpayers footed that bill as the city got grants from the state and federal government to pay for the construction.
However, we found, because traffic must come in and out of the harbor, the bridge will continue to cost Cleveland taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars for years to come.
A spokesperson for the city told 19 investigates that US Coast Guard regulations require the North Coast Harbor to be open to boats at all times. But, the city does not have “legal authority” to charge “boats” in order to operate the bridge-- to lift and lower it.
Instead, taxpayers will fund operators to work the bridge each day.
Cleveland has five other movable bridges, and according to the city’s 2021 employee roster, bridge operators make just over 40 thousand dollars.
No reply from the city though, when we asked why it went with the current design instead of a taller bridge that boats could pass under while people walk over.
Since the bridge isn’t fully finished, it’ll be in the upright position throughout the draft, allowing boaters in and out without a hassle.
The surrounding businesses understand that, but hope that’s not the standard for future events boaters want to attend.
“I think it’s going to take some time to work out the kinks and the scheduling, but like I said ultimately I think that it’s going to be an addition, and I think it will be a positive addition,” Benyo said.