Thursday, November 5, 2015

Bridge to Nowhere

the Terra Lane bridge today
Back on my post about the Oak Point Road interchange, regular blog reader and contributor Rick Kurish left a great comment about Amherst’s “Bridge to Nowhere” of the 1960s.

As Rick pointed out, back in the mid-1960s, while Oak Point Road dangerously crossed the new Route 2 at grade (meaning it was at the same level), just a mile east was a bridge built over the highway that had no road leading to it – and was thus unused.

Read all about it in this Journal article written by Staff Writer Howard Price that appeared in the July 11, 1967 edition.


Mile from 'Death Trap' Crossroads
Amherst’s White Elephant: The 'Bridge to Nowhere’
Staff Writer

AMHERST – Townspeople here call it “The Bridge to Nowhere.”

It’s a $150,000 steel and concrete structure that spans relocated SR 2 just west of SR 58. It’s supposed to connect the northern and southern sections of Terra Lane. But it doesn’t.

IT JUST SITS there gleaming in the afternoon sun, all shiny and new without a tire track on it.

Meanwhile, a mile west, where there should be a bridge, cars whiz by a “death-trap” intersection at Oak Point Road – N. Lake Street. There is no  bridge, no interchange. Only a dangerous grade crossing, a perfect place for high-speed accidents.

The Terra Lane bridge is inaccessible to traffic. Approachways have not been paved and have been allowed to erode so they are scarred by rain-etched rivulets which snake down and away from the bridge.

Two signs – each reading “Road Closed” – have been posted on each side of the bridge where ramps should intersect with Terra Lane.

WHY WAS the bridge built, if it isn’t being used?

According to Mayor Marvin Davis, the Terra Lane bridge was “another one of those so-called concessions” made to the city of Amherst by the state highway department when relocated SR 2 was first planned and discussed.

The highway department agreed to build it, Davis said, after Amherst officials objected to “all the inconveniences of the highway.”

He explained the highway department wanted to close off a number of city streets. When the department insisted on severing Dewey Road, east of SR 58, Amherst councilmen called for a bridge on Terra Lane.

The bridge, said Davis, was intended to give Amherst another access point over the four-lane divided highway.

On the other hand, a highway department official said the state “got suckered into building the bridge.”

WHEN THE STATE held a public meeting on the proposed highway, the highway official recalled, Amherst councilmen jumped into the foray and demanded more access points over SR 2 before they would sign a cooperative agreement with the highway department.

“We (the state) were hypnotized by the whole thing,” he said. “We agreed to the bridge proposal and to the intersection at Oak Point Road. It was foolish but we did.

“From an engineering standpoint, I didn’t feel there was any need for that road (Terra Lane) to be bridged,” he continued. “I fought it; but I lost and the city of Amherst won. What can you do?”

He said Amherst signed an agreement with the state, stating that the city would pave the approachways to the bridge, open it up for traffic, and maintain it.

“It’s been a mess for a long time. The city signed an agreement but the city didn’t come through.”

THE U.S. BUREAU of Public Roads apparently is making a periodic check on the Terra Lane bridge project to see how it develops. “They’re not too happy with the situation,” the official said.

The federal government is responsible for keeping track of all highway project built with federal money. Half the cost for the 4.5 mile stretch of SR 2 was financed with federal funds.

At present, said Mayor Davis, there are no definite plans to build ramps on either side of the bridge. Paving costs are responsible for the delay, he said.

Amherst officials have no idea how they would finance them. There is virtually no one who owns the land in the immediate area who could be assessed for the project, Davis explained.

AN AGREEMENT already has been reached with one property owner in the area. By ordinance, Amherst has agreed not to assess land belonging to the Four-Square Gospel Church over a five-year period ending in 1968, because the church said it couldn’t possibly absorb the cost.

Perhaps, in the future, suggested Davis, there will be “a clamor raised by some of the residents to have the ramps paved.” At the same time, some developers who have been doing work in the area, might want to build homes near the bridge. In that case, those properties might be assessed. Or some agreement might be worked out between developers and the city, whereby both parties would share the costs.

“It’s a sticky and complicated situation,” said Davis, what with “all the legalities and people involved.”

“Those ramps could be expensive as the devil,” he declared, predicting at the same time that a settlement may not be reached “for several more years.”

Meanwhile, the city of Amherst and the rest of Lorain County have a “bridge to nowhere,” and a “death-trap” intersection one mile down the road, where there should be a bridge but there isn’t.

Rick Kurish noted in his comment that eventually the Terra Lane approaches were completed, and that the bridge finally opened in December 1974.


Ken said...

I remember a 'Passing Scene' cartoon about that bridge in the Journal years ago, The Bridge to Nowhere, with the gag 'Getting there is half the fun'. I didn't understand why there would be a bridge to nowhere as a kid, but I wanted to see it.

Dan Brady said...

Now I'm gonna have to go back and find that cartoon!

Dennis T said...

The area around Dewey Rd has changed also. My 1976 street guide shows that Dewey Rd still ran north from North Ridge Rd and connected to Chapel Lane. That connection is now gone, and Chapel is renamed to Chapel Court. In present aerial photos, you can still see the overgrown, truncated north end of Dewey Rd. The portion north of the highway that connected to Cooper Foster Park is now Liberty Bell St.

Unknown said...

Wow, memories! Me and my buddies used to ride our dirt bikes on the hills along the south ramp to the bridge! I've still got photos of me doing wheelies as I crested the side of the ramp on my Yamaha. We thought it was cool that they left that cool spot there for us. That was in the late 60's...