To boaters' dismay, city has not yet ordered part to fix Willow Bridge, sources say

To boaters' dismay, city has not yet ordered part to fix Willow Bridge, sources say

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Some Cleveland boat owners are beyond baffled. A bearing on a lift bridge, allowing them to set sail into Lake Erie, is busted.

Businesses are also getting burned by the broken bridge. So why is the city of Cleveland failing to fix it?

From the water, it is easy to see the problem. Many of the boats are simply too tall to go under the bridge, and the bridge only goes up after 7 p.m., meaning they're stuck at their docks all day. The Willow Bridge is a critical link from the Flats to major trucking firms, such as Ontario Stone and Cargill Salt. But it is also a barrier for boaters who want to get from places like the Olde River Yacht Club to the lake.

And that's the problem.

A bearing on the bridge is broken, so it can't go up and down as it has for years.

In fact, it only goes up once a day. What angers many boaters is the fact that the city has known about the problem since September 2015 but hasn't
done anything about it. They are prisoners on the water because it goes up so infrequently.

Mark Vataj is one of them.

"It took a three-month study from September 2015 to December and then in March (they) discussed the option of ordering the part," he said.

Vataj hasn't been told if the part has been ordered.

The Mayor's Office has not replied to repeated requests to find out about the part. But sources said the part must be fabricated by the Timken Company at a cost of more than $100,000, and it takes a couple of month to make. Sources said the part has not been ordered.

The bottom line is this entire boating season is lost.

"We're probably down 30 percent in permanent dockage and we're probably down 5 or greater percent in transient dockage in people from other marinas," Vataj said.

John Johnson from Toledo tried to get into the marina Wednesday night, but the bridge was down so he waited until the 7 o'clock promised opening time. He was frustrated.

"It still wasn't opened up at 7 p.m., so at 7:30 p.m. we called and they said, 'Oh yeah, we'll have it opened shortly' and then they opened it and we came on through," he said.

And he couldn't leave until 7 p.m. Thursday.

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