As with many long and complex bridges, the dimensions of the bridge (span numbers, length) vary depending on which source you use. Take the number for what they are worth. HAER reports the bridge is 4490 Feet with 2886 feet over the valley. Several other sources report 5856 feet. The National Bridge Inventory reports that the bridge is only 3285 feet. The longer lengths may reference dirt approaches that some experts might not qualify as part of the actual bridge.
Modern bridge design in the 21st century is generally utilitarian in method. The idea is to build the cheapest and simplest bridge to meet the specified needs as possible. The result is a simple structure with no decoration whatsoever. Sometimes however, modern engineers at the request of cities and their citizens, do try to design an "aesthetically pleasing" modern bridge. The general result of these attempts remains a simple, mundane bridge structure, but one that also has some sort of embellishments added, like an arrangement of bricks covering up the concrete, decorative lighting, etc. Because of this, these modern "aesthetic" bridges fall short in that these decorations are not coupled with a creative superstructure.
The Lorain-Carnegie Bridge is different. It represents a period in time in which both the superstructure and additional decorations both have strong aesthetic qualities that combine to create one of the most visually pleasing bridges in northeastern Ohio. It is this union of creative superstructure and decorative embellishment that make the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge and many other historic bridges so much more visually pleasing than any modern replacement could hope to be.
The superstructure of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge is a cantilever deck truss that follows the Pratt truss configuration. Viewed from under the bridge, the truss spans have the design of two separate truss bridges side by side connected by floor beams. The main spans range from 132 to 199 feet in length. Although it has never been used, the bridge features a lower deck below the one in use today. It was designed to handle two rapid tracks and two truck lanes. The pleasing arch shapes of the truss spans, along with the pleasing geometric complexity that the truss webs provides, combine to form a beautiful bridge superstructure. Further complexity is achieved through the built-up members and chords that include extensive v-lacing and lattice. V-lacing and lattice were utilitarian ways to assemble built-up beams, but are today distinguished as something that is more visually pleasing to view than the plain all-in-one rolled beams of today.
The decorative embellishments on the bridge include railings, piers, and the four Lords of Transportation, more commonly called the Guardians of Traffic. These stunning works of art are four large stone pylons, each of which include sculptures of two figures holding a vehicle. These vehicles range from a covered wagon to motorized trucks hauling industrial materials. The vehicles they hold showcase the progress in transportation and industrial development in the United States. The Guardians of Traffic were designed by Frank Walker and created by Henry Hering, (who also was involved with the sculptures for the Michigan Avenue Bridge). Be sure to view the photo gallery for this bridge to see detailed photos of each beautifully rendered figure.
Between the attractive superstructure and the decorative supplements, it is no surprise that this bridge was recognized by the American Institute of Steel Construction as one of the most beautiful bridges of 1932.
In 1976 County Engineer Albert Porter wanted to widen the bridge and threatened to tear the figures down, asserting his opinion that they were ugly. Fortunately his opinion was not shared by everyone, and they were allowed to remain. This is even more fortunate, because today the bridge's original 60 foot width seems more than sufficient, given that some of the bridge's deck has now been dedicated to two relatively wide bike lanes. The bridge also serves four lanes of motorized traffic.
Today the bridge appears to be a treasured part of Cleveland's rich transportation heritage. It is a gateway into the city, and it has been well maintained. It was restored in the 1980s. Although the original stone railings were removed, the new concrete ones put in place were designed to look like the original railings. The National Bridge Inventory today gives this bridge a 97.1% Sufficiency rating, which is an incredible rating for a 1932 bridge that serves 13,350 cars a day (according to a 2004 Average Daily Traffic (ADT) survey). This bridge's stunning condition shows that old historic bridges do not have to be demolished, and that they can be restored and continue to serve traffic for many decades to come. Many historic bridges in this country are torn down when, like the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, they could be restored and continue to be a safe and functional crossing. The Lorain-Carnegie Bridge serves as a role model and example for other places to follow.
A group in Cleveland called Idea Box has proposed having the Guardians of Traffic lit up at night so that their beauty can be enjoyed regardless of time of day. A number of the abandoned railroad bridges in Cleveland have decorative lighting, and having the Guardians of Traffic lit up as well seems a logical continuation of this idea, which not only allow historic bridges in Cleveland to be enjoyed in the dark, but also help to raise awareness of the beauty and importance of these historic bridges to what makes Cleveland a special place and worth a visit.
Information and Findings From Ohio's Historic Bridge Inventory
The bridge carries a 4-lane arterial street over the valley from the Flats into downtown Cleveland in the area of the stadium and former industrial buildings. It is a gateway to the center of the city.
The main spans of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge consist of 14 cantilever deck trusses ranging in length from 132' to 299'. The bridge is double deck, but the lower deck designed for rapid transit was never used. The bridge has decorative sandstone architectural embellishments, including the eight figural pylons holding symbols of transportation development and evolution.
Summary of Significance
The Lorain-Carnegie Bridge is NR-listed (1976). The bridge was rehabilitated without adverse effect in 2001.
As much public sculpture as a transportation facility, the bridge ranks as one of the finest aesthetic statements of the period in the state. It is an important landmark and gateway to downtown Cleveland. This and the Lorain Road Viaduct (1801325) are the most outstanding examples of their type in the state.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
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