Sep 18, 2023
Waterfront Line Closure
In 2021, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) Waterfront Line, an essential piece of Cleveland's transportation infrastructure, was forced to close due to safety concerns surrounding its main bridge near the Flats. The 2.2-mile Waterfront Line services the Browns Stadium, East Bank of the Flats, Settlers Landing, North Coast, and South Harbor. The decision to close the Waterfront Line was not taken lightly. In 2018, an extensive inspection of the bridge was completed.
In 2019, GCRTA began to monitor the stress cracks that were flagged by the inspection in 2018, and as a result, GCRTA began to limit cars on the bridge by restricting traffic to one car crossing at a time. Extensive assessments and evaluations revealed structural deficiencies in the bridge that posed potential risks to public safety. In the Spring of 2021, GCRTA completed a second inspection, which included a recommendation to suspend service. To ensure the well-being of Cleveland residents and visitors, GCRTA made the difficult choice to temporarily shut down the line.
Construction on the Waterfront Line
Starting in the Spring of 2021, GCRTA began construction on the Waterfront Line bridge. The renovation plans not only focused on restoring the Waterfront Line but also included long-term improvements to enhance its safety and reliability for years to come. The main bridge near the Flats underwent extensive repairs and strengthening measures to ensure its structural integrity. This rehabilitation project has been a much-needed initiative, and it has taken $8.7 million to get the job done for reconstruction. Strengthening and repairing the 645-foot-long bridge was the first major task on the list. This involved additional steel post-tensioning members, which increased the bridge's structural integrity. There was also concrete crack repair and patching to ensure that the bridge could support the weight of the trains.
Additionally, the project involved replacing the bridge bearings and refurbishing the steel structure to extend the life of the bridge. There was work done on the Mechanical Stabilized Earth (MSE) walls to strengthen soil nails, post-tensioning steel rods, and concrete foundations. This means that the foundation and soil support for the bridge would be more stable, which enhances passenger safety. To improve the overall train ride experience, there was a replacement of half a mile of track from each approach and across the bridge to improve the expansion of the direct fixation rail on the structure.
On September 8, 2023, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the long-awaited reopening of the Waterfront Line. This event marks a significant milestone in the restoration of this critical transit infrastructure for Cleveland's communities. Many people attended the celebration, including Robert P. Madison, a centenarian (one hundred years old) and original architect for the Waterfront Line. The speakers at this event ranged from GCRTA employees, Congresswoman Shontel Brown to Chief Operating Officer for the City of Cleveland, Bonnie Teeuwen.
The speakers included:
- India Birdsong Terry, CEO/GM, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
- Rev. Charles Lucas, Board President, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
- Ted Tywang, Chief Administrative Officer, Haslam Sports Group
- Michael Schipper, Deputy General Manager of Engineering & Project Management, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
- Bonnie Teeuwen, Chief Operating Officer, City of Cleveland
- Congresswoman Shontel Brown, U.S. Representative, State of Ohio
- State Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney, Ohio House of Representatives
- Council President Blaine Griffin, Ward 6, City of Cleveland
- Dr. Floun’say Caver, Chief Operating Officer, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
The reopening of the Waterfront Line was celebrated with great enthusiasm as community leaders gathered to recognize the significance of this achievement. GCRTA's CEO/GM India Birdsong Terry spoke about the “essential nature of public transportation and how the Waterfront Line's successful operation is critical to the community's overall success.” Attendees were given the opportunity to ride the Waterfront Line and witness firsthand its importance to the city's development and infrastructure. The line's connection to the Browns stadium was discussed, with Ted Tywang emphasizing the significance of the Waterfront Line to being a “key part of the game-day experience.”
Cleveland representatives, federal support from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and state legislators were recognized for their vital support in making this project a reality. Congresswoman Shontel Brown spoke about the importance of public transit in the community and “stressing the need to connect communities instead of dividing them.” Bonnie Teeuwen, the Chief Operating Officer of the City of Cleveland, discussed how the reopening of the Waterfront Line aligns with Mayor Bibb's promise to “create a 15-minute city, where Cleveland is an excellent place to live, work, and play.” Teeuwen stressed that the “link is vital to the development of the North Coast, a multimodal plan that enables access to the lake and downtown and supports economic development and quality of life for all income levels.”
GCRTA will continue to perform various upgrades on days when the train is not running. GCRTA hopes to have the Waterfront Line operating on a regular schedule next spring or summer.