Video Vault: The Innerbelt opening in 1961

Mayor uses torch to open freeway

CLEVELAND - This version correctly identifies the first film clip as the opening of the Innerbelt, not the Innerbelt Bridge.

With the new Innerbelt Bridge recently completed and open to traffic, the old bridge sits there waiting to be dismantled.

There was a time when the now-closed bridge was part of a brand-spanking new freeway and its opening celebrated.

The film in our video player, while black and white, looks much like the color, high-definition video shot when the new Innerbelt Bridge opened a few weeks ago – a ribbon cutting and vintage autos.

However in the Dec. 1961 version, Cleveland Mayor Anthony Celebrezze cut a cable with a torch to open the roadway to traffic.

Celebrezze had much more luck than his fellow mayor would have some 11 years later.

Ralph Perk cutting a metal ribbon with a torch to open a trade show would catch his hair on fire when a wayward spark ignited his curls.

The 1961 opening takes place on the westbound roadway beyond the Chester Avenue entrance ramp and there are no actually shots of the now-defunct Innerbelt bridge.

According to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, the Innerbelt Bridge section of the Innerbelt opened in 1959. Later, the section from Chester Avenue to the Shoreway opened.

When that section opened, it was discovered the curve connecting the Shoreway to the Innerbelt was too tight and accidents began to occur.

I’ve included an early example of an accident at what we now know as “Deadman’s Curve”.

It’s 1965 and a truck takes the curve, or should I say didn’t take the curve, and loses its load.

An expert is interviewed regarding the dangers of the curve. He speaks in engineering terms which basically translate into, “We’re stumped, there are lots of warning signs, what else can we do?”

Finally, I’ve added an accident on the Shoreway Bridge near Municipal Stadium from 1958 for a look at some old cars tangled in a pre-seat belt era wreck.

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