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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Look Under the Veterans Memorial Bridge

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2012 at 3:56 PM

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In the opening scene of Marvel’s summer smash The Avengers, the evil Loki infiltrates a secret military research outpost for a valuable mineral that will help him conquer the world. In the following scene, Loki uses a creepy hideout to hatch his malevolent plans. The location of this creepy hideout? Cleveland’s own Veterans Memorial Bridge, also known as the Detroit-Superior Bridge. The brief scene was shot underneath the familiar landmark in its little-known tunnel system.

Every summer, the Cleveland Public Works department organizes a public tour of the bridge, and I got a sneak peak at what attendees will see when they venture underneath the 3112-foot structure to one of Cleveland’s creepiest locales. On Saturday, July 7, the bridge and its lower subway deck will be open to the public—the only time of the year this is true.

My tour began on Superior Viaduct, the bridge’s official entrance. From there, we descended into the subway area of the bridge. The Veterans Memorial Bridge has two decks; the top one is the familiar automobile motorway and the lower is the lesser-known subway track. The lower deck was used for streetcar transport until 1954, when the service was discontinued. Since then, it has served as a mostly abandoned tunnel, spotted with the occasional bum. Nowadays the bridge is locked securely and only open to the public a handful of times a year.

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The subway tunnel stretches into pitch blackness further than the eye can comprehend, but the light afforded from the weak lighting offer a dim view of the subway tracks underfoot. The walls (one of the most recognizable features from Loki’s hideout) are the original white brick, and are lined with stone arches on either side. About 200 feet down the tunnel is a replica of a streetcar, and hanging from the ceiling is an original sign naming the streets that lie above. The darkness is complete, and I half-expect the phantom of the opera to slink out of the underground network to meet us.

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After getting our fill of the tunnel we made our way towards the city, which got increasingly brighter as we headed aboveground. Art painted by participants in a previous Ingenuity Fest line the ground, and the stone arches continue to mark our path. To the left is the blue Columbus bridge, and to the right is our view of the city. It’s really picturesque, in an industrial kind of way. The cars whiz by overhead, and when the wind gusts you can almost feel the bridge waver below.

On July 7th, movies will be playing underground, and there will be exhibits about the streetcars and subway system. Also notable is the unique view of the cityscape; the bridge offers an almost below-ground view of the towering buildings that make up our great city. The event is free, and goes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

2433 Superior Viaduct, 216-348-3824, www.publicworks.cuyahogacounty.us

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