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The Hilliard Road Bridge was opened in 1925, connecting the west end suburbs to Cleveland. It was extremely important to the development of the west end until the Interstate 90 Bridge opened in 1956.

ROCKY RIVER/LAKEWOOD

Officials are taking the next step in the $52 million project to replace the nearly 100-year-old Hilliard Road Bridge by encouraging public input in the process. Design work on the project is expected to start by 2022. Removal of the span and construction of its replacement would begin the following year and take more than a year to complete.

Cuyahoga County officials are hosting a month-long virtual input meeting about what should happen to the bridge, which connects Rocky River and Lakewood and arches high above the Cleveland Metroparks Rocky River Reservation and the Rocky River. The span runs parallel to the Interstate 90 bridge.

For several years, nets on the underbelly of the 1925 bridge have protected Metroparks pedestrians, bicyclists and cars from falling concrete and debris from the decaying structure.

The meeting went live last week and will be open through March 1, said Rocky River Safety Service Director Rich Snyder.

“Hilliard Road Bridge is historic, but it has reached the end of its useful life span,” Snyder said. “The time’s come that we need to start thinking about the next steps.”

The meeting is in an open-house style, where residents can review several pages of information to see what needs to be changed. There is also a recorded presentation. To participate, go to publicinput.com/O8043.

“Right now, the goal is to begin construction in 2023 with an estimated completion in 2024,” Snyder said. The project fits in line with the city’s master plan, which includes proposals for bike lanes and new paths near the bridge to go into the Rocky River Reservation, he added.

Other plans for the bridge include a center turning lane, said Mayor Pam Bobst.

The bridge is made of 25,000 yards of concrete, 20,000 tons of sand and more than 1 million pounds of steel. It features four balconies that pedestrians can use to take in the sights of the Rocky River Reservation below.

The structure’s deterioration has been well documented. Large chunks of concrete have fallen into the Rocky River below. Netting catches debris, and the trails below were redirected for safety, said County Project Manager Bob Mileti.

The historic bridge helped ease traffic on the former Detroit Rocky River Bridge. Before the Hilliard bridge was built in 1925, people rarely traveled to Rocky River due to time and safety issues with both bridges, according to the Lakewood Historical Society.

“Rocky River experienced a boom in development when this bridge was built,” Lakewood Historical Society Director Greg Palumbo said.

There are no plans to preserve sections of the bridge once it is removed. Palumbo wishes there was more that could be done to save the bridge.

“It’s tough because this is a significant piece of both Lakewood and Rocky River’s history,” he said. “The people deserve to have a safe bridge, though. I understand why it needs to go.”

Contact this reporter at akamczyc@westlifenews.com or 216-307-6614.

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