CLEVELAND (WJW) – The unique bridges crossing the Cuyahoga River have long been powerful symbols of Cleveland’s industrial might and ingenuity.

But for many business owners and residents in The Flats, the bridges are a source of frustration right now.

The iconic Center Street Swing Bridge has been shut down since January 2022, as ODOT crews do a complete overhaul of the span, linking the East Bank and the West Bank on the crooked river. Then a week ago, the Columbus Road Lift Bridge was shut down by mechanical issues.

The two bridges being out of commission at the same time is posing a major challenge for Flats residents like Robert Rainieri and his daughter Iver, who enjoy bicycling to their favorite places like The Flat Iron Café on Center Street.

Rainieri told Fox 8, “To be honest, it’s very frustrating because what used to be a five-minute walk is now circumventing the whole area just to do your simple daily tasks.”

It’s a nightmare scenario for merchants like the owner of Sainato’s Restaurant, which is heavily dependent on two of the three main arteries crossing the Cuyahoga.

“All of our customers are like ‘Where do you go, how do we do this, how do we get there?’ and then the next thing you know, they’re like just roaming around, including my own staff,” said Urvashi O’Toole.
From the start of the Center Street Bridge project, it has been a source of disappointment for the owner of The Flat Iron, where business is down 50%, on the heels of the pub’s brief recovery from losses incurred during the COVID pandemic.

“It’s just really, really, really wearing on myself, my employees, my customers for the most part and we’re just fed up,” said David Steele.

Residents and business owners were initially told that the Center Street Bridge project would take one year to complete, and a year and a half later, they are now being told it will not be completed until the end of summer.

ODOT says delays have been caused by the historic nature of the swing bridge, and the unique design is forcing crews to take a cautious approach.

“So, we’re constantly adjusting construction materials, equipment to make sure the bridge always stays balanced in its non-centered condition,” said ODOT spokesman Brent Kovacs.
But beleaguered business owners are reminding ODOT and the City of Cleveland that they have been left on what amounts to an island.

“Closed bridge, closed bridge, it’s like why would you want to come down here?” said David Steele.

However, there is some encouraging news on the bridge front. Business owners say they have been told by city officials that the Columbus Road Lift Bridge could be up and running as soon as Saturday.