Public Advisory: Never Cross a Cleveland Bridge Again

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My colleague, Mr. Jared Klaus, has dogged The Plain Dealer for running an alarmist story today on the danger posed by Ohio’s bridges. While he offers wise counsel on alternatives to plunging to an agonizing death in a swirling river, dismissing The PD’s fears is short sighted. Consider how a Cleveland bridge is made: Step 1: Large Cleveland contractor is indicted by the feds. Said contractor is running up enormous legal bills. Said contractor calls up congressman. “Hey,” he says, “we really need a new bridge… [insert location where no bridge is needed]. Step 2: Congressman says bridge is not needed. A day later, $10,000 campaign contribution arrives via express mail. On second thought, new bridge is long overdue. Step 3: Congressman adds $500 million earmark for bridge to foreign aid bill for the Sudan. Step 4: 25 contractors bid for the job. Indicted guy, who happens to be a major donator to the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, comes in with the lowest bid. When questioned, officials defend contractor, “who is innocent until proven guilty – and he always picks up the check at Johnny’s.” Step 5: Construction begins. Within three days, contractor has filed so many change orders the bridge will now cost 17 times the highest bid. Bills are swiftly approved by county project liaison, who never learned to read and signs his name with an X. Step 6: Congressman adds another $1.7 billion bridge earmark to bill for prenatal care. Step 7: To save money, contractor buys all construction materials at Marc’s closeout sale. Supporting beams are made of rewelded shopping carts. Step 8: At a cost of 1,307 times the original bid, bridge is finally completed 14 years late. Passes all inspections with flying colors. Inspectors are seen later that night in contractor’s Jacobs Field luxury suite. Step 9: Vigorous yearly inspections are conducted by the Cuyahoga County Department of Vigorous Inspections, headed by the 23-year-old son of Jimmy Dimora’s cousin, who dropped out of Tri-C during his first semester, then bought a structural engineering degree from the back of Rolling Stone for $15. After personally inspecting the bridge himself, kid declares bridge “safe for the rest of time. Now quit bothering me. I’m trying to read the sports section.” Step 10: You are driving across said bridge. Suddenly you feel your ’79 Impala in a free fall. You’re in the water. Large chunks of steel are falling on your head. That really hurts, doesn’t it? You wish you would have read that alarmist story in The Plain Dealer. And Christ almighty, why didn’t your bring your kayak today? – Pete Kotz

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