by Eric Sandy
Beginning May 31, West Side commuters found themselves crawling along the banks of Detroit Avenue, gasping for strong drink and a peaceful place to rest their weary heads. And that was only after they had abandoned their cars at the corner of West 65th and started to walk downtown. Captain America: The Winter Soldier had brought its action-packed filming itinerary to the West Shoreway, and the working class denizens of Lakewood and Cudell and West Park, et. al., were pissed.
...For the most part, anyway. There have been lots of people - er, anonymous online commenters - championing the arrival of Hollywood and revived industry here in town. But the rah-rah crowd is generally not very interesting. Nor is the prospect of getting inordinately supportive of an also-ran blockbuster superhero sequel. For a city that claims to love its culture, heritage, museums and arts scene, the rush to blow Captain America is bizarre.
Fact: An average day sees about 37,000 vehicles traverse the stretch of State Route 2 known as the West Shoreway. According to the Ohio Department of Transportation, there hasn’t been an "official" traffic study conducted along that asphalt. Because the roadway meanders through the city of Cleveland, “home rule” lays the real responsibility at the doorsteps of City Hall.
Unsurprisingly, that responsibility was wholly misplaced. Little to no pre-planning led to a massive headache last week. To wit, reports were beginning to trickle in today that some commuters had finally arrived for their Friday morning meetings. Had the city employed its caraway seed-sized brain just a little bit, drivers of all geographic ilk may have had a more comprehensive plan to consult prior to the glint of Hollywood nickel arriving downtown. (I mean - come on - the synchronicity of shutting down the West Shoreway and the Columbus Road bridge is almost too much to bear.) Needless to say, there was no plan. Some traffic signals were changed by Monday, though, and some police officers kinda hung out and waved their arms in major intersections. The police department also posted some kind of weird parody update to the traffic issues. But that's not really a "plan."
The Plain Dealer’s Mark Naymik, in order to set the record straight or something, called out West Side readers and commuters yesterday, referring to them as “cry babies.” He then spent the majority of his column bitching about traffic elsewhere in town.
And bitching about Cleveland's fairly nonexistent traffic problem any day of the week - especially this week and next - is, to be fair, plenty of fun. But the real issue is return on investment. It's not so much the film production team's investment in Captain America (although that's surely a concern, too), but rather the investment of time, political capital, public safety resources and, for better or worse, local reporters sent to "cover" the filming that should piss us off.
The whole non-strategy flies in the face of Cleveland's increasingly buzzworthy "brand" and civic vibe. Yes, we can all participate in the region's growing sense of self-awareness, cultural intrigue and cohesive dialogue. Or we can be a Hollywood backdrop.
Doing both? Not so much.