What it looked like Wednesday: The Ohio Street Bridge, 1951

By Steve Cichon

For decades, the Ohio Street Bridge was ground zero for the fight between Buffalo’s road traffic and Buffalo’s water traffic.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

Before the Skyway was built, Ohio Street was a major artery. From the motorist’s perspective, the bridge served as access for all the men coming from the south who worked in the mills and elevators along Buffalo Creek as well as men who worked downtown.

That was at odds with the thoughts of shipping interests, however.

“The Ohio Street Bridge has long been a hindrance to navigation in the (Buffalo) river,” a tug line manager told the Courier-Express in 1928.

The bridge spanned the Buffalo River at one of the tight hairpin curves in the waterway. Even without the bridge, as time wore on, it was becoming a difficult area for larger, more modern ships to navigate. The 621-foot freighter Cadillac, it was explained in 1950, had less than three feet of clearance in making the turn.

When city engineers began blasting around the bridge to make a larger way for ships like the Cadillac, the bridge’s central pier was damaged, and the bridge was closed for months.

The subsequent traffic nightmare helped push along long-discussed plans for the high-level bridge and highway along the waterfront that was to become known as The Skyway.