Too Bad Captain America Can’t Rescue Cleveland From Ohio DOT

Where advocates in Cleveland fell short, Captain America has triumphed.

The filming of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" will close a highway in Cleveland. ODOT officials have refused to convert the same highway to a boulevard that pedestrians can cross. Image: The Plain Dealer

For decades, many in Cleveland have dreamed of transforming the West Shoreway — a state highway separating the city from its tantalizingly inaccessible waterfront — into a tree-lined boulevard with at-grade intersections, so that residents of nearby neighborhoods could cross the street to Edgewater Park and Lake Erie’s shoreline.

But Cleveland’s plans were put through the meat grinder a few years ago by the Ohio Department of Transportation. The state agency nixed the idea of signalized intersections, an essential feature to let people walk to the waterfront, on the grounds that the road would “break down,” or, in engineer-speak, would receive an “F” for level of service, a measure of motorist delay.

Cleveland's West Shoreway, a proposed highway-to-boulevard project.

Given just how essential ODOT deems high-speed traffic on this corridor, it’s ironic that the agency will now allow the whole highway to close down for a month two weeks this spring — not for safety reasons, not to improve pedestrian access, but to allow a film shoot.

Movie producers, lured by the state’s tax incentives, are planning to use the road to film the upcoming action movie “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” From May 18 29 to June 14, the highway that couldn’t possibly withstand lower vehicle speeds will serve as a site to stage car chase scenes and explosions. According to the Plain Dealer, the filming will inject some $70 million into the local economy. (Never mind the half billion in development that has already occurred around this corridor in anticipation of the road being downgraded, or the hundreds of millions more that would surely have followed.)

Will the local economy grind to a halt when 36,000 daily drivers are rerouted? Or will they just use I-90, the redundant east-west corridor, and barely notice? Stay tuned!

Here’s an idea: Once the filming is over, how about leaving the road closed? Or at least acknowledging that a couple of pedestrian crossings might have more economic value than a “B” level of service? Something tells me that’s still a little beyond the “job creators” over at ODOT.