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Metroparks awards $6M to build Wendy Park Bridge connecting lakefront to Towpath, Lake Link trails

CLEVELAND, Ohio — In a milestone move, Cleveland Metroparks commissioners voted today to approve a $6 million project to build a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge connecting Ohio City to Wendy Park at Whiskey Island within two years.

The new bridge will provide a critical connection linking the city’s lakefront to a 101-mile trail system including the Towpath Trail. It also will add to the handful of connections spanning the railroads and highways that cut between city neighborhoods and its 17 miles of lakefront.

For Ohio City, the bridge will dramatically shorten a trip as long as 3.4 miles on city streets and sidewalks now required to reach Wendy Park, the 65-acre Metroparks preserve west of the mouth of the Cuyahoga River.

“We are excited to see this vision now in the execution stage, literally unlocking the lakefront,’’ said Sean McDermott, Metroparks’ chief planning and design officer.


The 500-foot-long Wendy Park Bridge will have flat sections on its north and south ends, and a 250-foot-long steel truss in the center that arcs over the heavily-used Norfolk Southern railroad tracks that bisect Whiskey Island.

The bridge will give pedestrians and cyclists a direct link to Wendy Park from the north end of the Willow Avenue lift bridge. The Willow Avenue bridge spans the old channel of the Cuyahoga River, serving trucks carrying bulk cargo from Ontario Stone and the Cargill salt mine.

The new bridge — scheduled for completion in the spring of 2021 — will plug the final major gap in a trail network extending from Lake Erie in Cleveland to New Philadelphia, 101 miles to the south.

Emerging trail network

Metroparks views the Towpath and Lake Link trails — the two major components of that network in Cleveland — as the spine of a growing system of trails reaching deep into city neighborhoods and Cuyahoga County communities, connecting them to attractions including the Cuyahoga Valley National Park between Cleveland and Akron.

“These trails will serve as a catalyst to link our communities, improve connections to the urban core and create all new opportunities to explore our lakefront,” Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian M. Zimmerman said in a prepared statement.

“We’re thankful to our federal and local partners including The Trust for Public Land, LAND Studio and NOACA as we move forward on this transformative project reconnecting Cleveland,” Zimmerman said. NOACA is the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency.

The Wendy Park Foundation provided $3 million for the bridge. The state of Ohio chipped in $1 million and $1.8 million came from a 2016 federal TIGER grant, short for Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery, McDermott said.

NOACA supported the TIGER grant and also has channeled millions of dollars into the trail network, including the Wendy Park Bridge.

“We are very pleased to hear that Metroparks is moving forward with the bridge,” said Grace Gallucci, executive director of NOACA. She called the bridge “critical to connections along the lakefront and critical to the work that the TIGER grant enabled.”

The Metroparks vote awarded the $5.62 million construction contract for the new bridge to Great Lakes Construction of Hinckley, which will begin work late this fall. The agency will spend roughly another $300,000 to Norfolk Southern to review construction drawings and to pay for flaggers to monitor rail traffic and tell the contractor when it’s safe to work.

Status of TIGER projects

The bridge is one of five trail projects costing $16.5 million, funded with the TIGER grant, which totaled $8 million, and which leveraged another $8.5 million in matching funds. All the projects were designed to fill gaps in the emerging trail network in the Flats and along the lakefront on the city’s West Side.

The TIGER-funded projects include:

  • The 1.25-mile, $3.6 million Whiskey Island Connector, a trail connecting Edgewater Park to Whiskey Island. Metroparks awarded the construction contract to Mark Haynes Construction, of Norwalk, in September; work should be finished in spring 2021.
  • The 2-mile Red Line Greenway, an all-purpose trail edging the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s rapid transit tracks from Michael Zone Recreation Center Park at West 53rd Street to Columbus Road at Franklin Boulevard. The $6 million project, also to be built by Mark Haynes, should wrap up between late fall 2020 and spring 2021.
  • A pair of newly completed bike paths on Old Detroit Road and Center Street. They’ll function as part of a detour around Irishtown Bend on the west bank of the river, where planners envision a future park with part of the Lake Link Trail. So far, $31.5 million has been raised to stabilize the Irishtown riverbank and build the park.

Design evolution

Metroparks planned several years ago to make the Wendy Park Bridge somewhat of a design statement. The agency engaged Boston architect Miguel Rosales to design an elegant span with a structural system called a Fink truss.

McDermott said the design couldn’t meet safety standards required by Norfolk Southern or potential stress from ice and winds without adding significantly to its cost.

Metroparks ultimately turned to KS Associates in Elyria, a civil engineering firm, for a design that met the railroad’s requirements. The project includes a 10-foot-high mesh barrier with a 2-inch-wide grid on both sides of the 12-foot-wide bridge.

McDermott said the Rosales design “pushed the envelope,’’ but that Metroparks had to temper its aspirations against the need to build over “the busiest railroad between New York and Chicago.”

He called the bridge “a big deal because it caps decades of planning on how to connect people — whether visitors, residents or employees going to work — to and from the lakefront.”

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