Downtown Columbus Abandoned Overpass To Come Down in 2022
In 2018, WOSU listener Katie Merkhofer asked Curious Cbus why there was an abandoned overpass near the Scioto Audubon Metro Park over I-70 and I-71. Back then, the overpass was slated to come down in 2020. But it’s still up, and was even used as a canvas for a mural during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So what's going to happen to the overpass now? According to the Ohio Department of Transportation, it's still slated to come down, and soon.
An Abandoned Overpass Refresher
In 2018, no one WOSU spoke to knew when the overpass was first completed. But with aerial image archives, the construction we were able to pinpoint a time period between 1953 to 1963.
As for why the overpass existed, former journalist Anietra Hamper who wrote about the bridge in her book, “Secret Columbus: a Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure,” said it was originally supposed to be a ramp from Mound Street to I-70 West, but the project was abandoned when a separate ramp from I-70 West was built at Civic Center Drive and Second Street.
In 1995, however, construction began on the Miranova Place project off Mound Street, which led to the removal of the overpass connector there.
To Remove Or Not To Remove
An Ohio Department of Transportation spokesperson said construction to tear the overpass down last year was paused due to COVID-19.
When the original story was published three years ago citing it would get torn down, there were calls online to repurpose the overpass for other uses. One user on Reddit two years ago wrote that the overpass should be renovated as something similar to the Highline in New York City, basically a park on a bridge. Others have said it could become an extension of the Scioto Audubon Park, or a connector between the park and the Scioto Mile.
But now, it’s slated to come down in 2022. And ODOT said they need to demolish it as a part of their project to widen I-70 and I-71. They added that if it had previously been in use — or if they repurposed it for other uses — they would have to tear it down and replace it. But since it’s not, it will be a complete removal to save time and money.
A Bridge (Temporarily) In Use
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, local arts organization Catalyst Columbus collaborated with ODOT to paint a mural on the bridge.
Catalyst Columbus founder Brian Suiter said at the beginning of the pandemic, they wanted to find a way to make an impact on people’s lives while they were stuck at home. And the abandoned overpass was an opportunity.
“It’s a bridge that’s theoretically off limits to people, and so how do we be able to activate that asset that the city has and get it onto people’s phones and tablets and computers while they’re sitting at home and not able to go outside,” Suiter said.
The mural, which was completed last summer by around 15 people, spans from the Scioto Audubon entrance all the way to the other side of the overpass. “We Are Stronger Together” is painted in bold text over it.
Suiter said the group was told by ODOT going in that the mural would be temporary. And he’s surprised it’s still there.
“Our expectation was that it was going to be up for nine or 12, or maybe 15 months, and here we are months and months later where it’s still there and still has life to it for the next few months," he said.
But Suiter said while the mural is temporary, it’s still valuable as it marks a certain time period with the pandemic, and it was an opportunity for artists to bring joy to others at home. He added that there’s something romantic about something existing for a certain period of time and then disappearing.
There’s a possibility that the mural will be the last project that happens with the overpass before it’s torn down, and Suiter said if it is, it’s a good way for it to go out.
“It got utilized for something that was good and beautiful and brought some joy and interest to people’s lives," he said. "And it’s a good thing to have before it gets torn down."
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