CLEVELAND — The NFL regular season is right around the corner but as Browns fans prepare to head back to First Energy Stadium, they won’t have a key public transit asset available to get to and from the game.
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s Waterfront line remains out of service due to safety concerns with a bridge that carries trains from The Flats to the West 3rd Street Station. The bridge spans Front Street and the Norfolk Southern tracks at the north end of Flats East Bank.
"The bridge is 25 years old. It is a pretty unique structure,” said Mike Schipper, RTA’s manager of Engineering and Project Management.
RTA shut the Waterfront Line down last September due to safety issues with the bridge and estimated it would be closed for two years.
“The goal is to have the waterfront line bridge rehabilitated and open for the 2023 Browns season,” Schipper said.
RTA completed the design of the repairs to the span and retaining walls and bids are due on the project by August 25. Engineers have added four support towers to stabilize the bridge until permanent repairs are made, but in the meantime, the structure remains closed.
“The bridge moves with temperature. So even though it's concrete and steel, it expands, it contracts,” Schipper said. "And what we're finding is that the bridge was expanding and contracting in a way that was not good. There was some cracking in the bridge."
Because of road closures and game day congestion, RTA will not be providing an alternative service for Browns fans on game days. Transit officials recommend utilizing the Tower City station and walking down West 3rd Street to First Energy Stadium.
“Coming downtown, they can still walk from Tower City to the stadium and stop at a number of our bars and restaurants and other amenities we have that are part of game day,” Schipper said.