Streetcar deck of Detroit-Superior Bridge wins $7 million for bike/ped path


Cuyahoga County won $7 million in funds to plan for the reactivation of the long-closed streetcar subway deck of the Detroit-Superior Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Cuyahoga River, between Downtown Cleveland and Ohio City. The subway deck may be permanently reopened for used by pedestrians and cyclists (KJP). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

Bridge links Downtown Cleveland-Ohio City

Cuyahoga County won $7 million in federal funds today for the reactivation of the streetcar deck of Detroit-Superior Veterans Memorial Bridge linking Downtown Cleveland and Ohio City. But instead of bringing back streetcars for the first time in 70 years, the funding would start planning for permanently reopen the deck as a pedestrian-bike path protected from rain, snow and fast-moving cars, trucks and buses on the roadway deck above.

The funding was awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation from its new Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Grant Program. The program’s Neighborhood Access and Equity (NAE) account was the source of the funds. The program was created to help disadvantaged communities heal from past infrastructure investments.

The Detroit-Superior Veterans Memorial Bridge Project Connectivity Plan builds upon previous plans with the intent of re-opening the former streetcar level of the bridge as a public thoroughfare for cyclists and pedestrians, and as a venue for events, programming and recreation. The project has been championed by Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne.

“A new chapter for the Detroit-Superior Veterans Memorial Bridge is here,” Ronayne said on social media. “Congrats Cuyahoga County for securing a $7M Fed Reconnecting Communities grant. With it we’re that much closer to connecting bicyclists and pedestrians east/west at the bridge’s lower level over the Cuyahoga (River valley)!”

Ronayne dubbed the bridge’s lower deck as the Low Line, a reference to the High Line elevated linear park in New York City. U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced $3.33 billion in grant awards for 132 projects through the Reconnecting Communities Pilot and Neighborhood Access and Equity discretionary grant programs as part of President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda.

The streetcar subway deck of the Detroit-Superior Bridge had space for six streetcar tracks but only four were ever used. In this view, the center two track spaces are shown as being reactivated for bicycle and pedestrian use. The outside track-pair spaces could be used as public realms and the other continued as a utilities conduit. The last streetcar to use the 117-year-old bridge was in 1954 (CUDC).

The funding is aimed at reconnecting communities that were cut off by transportation infrastructure decades ago, leaving entire neighborhoods without direct access to opportunity, like schools, jobs, medical offices, and places of worship. According to a project summary, the Veterans Memorial (Detroit-Superior) Bridge is one of two main bridges that carries a major traffic arterial over the Cuyahoga River, connecting the East and West sides of Cleveland.

As of 2022, an average of 13,920 vehicles (roughly 9 percent, or 1,252 vehicles were trucks) and 269 non-vehicular users travel the bridge daily. The current condition exposes those pedestrians and cyclists to an uncomfortable and dangerous situation with the trucks hauling materials to local interstates. The number of bikes and pedestrians is expected to increase with the opening of the Irishtown Bend Park in a few years.

The bridge project will include a feasibility study followed by the preparation of an engineering plan, the project summary noted. The feasibility study will evaluate alternatives to improve connectivity to existing neighborhoods and surrounding assets, proposed treatments to the multimodal facility, and consider current construction and lifecycle costs associated with the various alternatives. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Responsibilities for the Detroit-Superior Bridge are complicated. While Cuyahoga County owns the bridge, Cleveland is responsible for its routine daily maintenance and the Ohio Department of Transportation funds construction projects and long-term maintenance of the bridge.

Advancing the subway deck project didn’t happen until recently because administrators for former Mayor Frank Jackson apparently weren’t responsive to requests by other agencies to participate in it, according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Jackson retired at the end of 2021.


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