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Bridge-naming exercise draws barrage of colorful suggestions

They asked for names and they got them - by the bushels.

The recent request for ideas to name the new I-280 bridge generated thousands of sincere proposals, but for scores of others it was an opportunity for creativity, humor, and even political commentary.

A total of 6,778 names were submitted to the naming committee for the Maumee River Crossing, but the committee rejected more than 1,800 of them because they were deemed vulgar or incomplete because the submitters did not include a required explanation supporting their nomination.

The remaining list of 4,945 nominations was released to The Blade yesterday. More than 800 submissions contained the words “Glass” or “Glass City,” 209 nominations suggested “Veterans' Memorial Bridge” plus dozens more that referred to veterans in other ways, and at least 785 proposed naming the span after an individual. The latter group included a small number of modesty-impaired residents who suggested their own names.

And then there were the cheeky nominations, including the “Anything Bridge,” “Dat Bridge,” “Fink's Link,” “The Higher Level Bridge,” “It's Better Than Swimmin',” “Monkey Poop Fling Bridge,” “Name It After the Mayor,” “Overcast Overpass,” “Pons Asinorum (Latin for Asinine Bridge),” and “Sinus Skyline of Mucas County.”

Others crossed the line into meanness, such as “Gateway to the Dirty East Side,” “Slummy Ghetto Bridge,” “ANYthing BUT M.L. King,” and several names containing snipes at Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.

None of these latter ideas, of course, made the list of 12 semifinalist names that the Maumee River Crossing Task Force's naming subcommittee released late last month for public voting.

Those semifinalists are Citizens' Crossing, Crossroads of America, Crystal Skyway, Glass City Bridge, Glass City Gateway Bridge, Glass City Skyway, Great Lakes Skyway, Mariners' Bridge, Maumee River Crossing, Toledo Harbor Gate Bridge, Toledo Renaissance Bridge, and Veterans' Memorial Bridge.

Citizens have until Friday night to mail in a postcard or letter identifying their preference from among the dozen semifinalists. The task force plans to choose the three or four most popular and submit those next month to the state legislature, which will have the final say.

While some naming subcommittee members said they favored considering certain individuals for the bridge moniker, they agreed that there was a predominant public sentiment that the bridge not be named after a person.

But that didn't stop those who had an individual in mind from submitting their ideas. Overall, about 130 individual names were proposed for the bridge.

Far and away the most popular of those nominations was actor Jamie Farr, whose name was on more than 150 nominations, including three “Bridge Too Farr” submissions. On 40 of the forms, Mr. Farr's first name was spelled Jaime. A handful more named Cpl. Max Klinger, Mr. Farr's character on the television show M*A*S*H.

Other local celebrities in the nominations included jazz musician Art Tatum, with about 65 nominations, and entertainer Danny Thomas, with more than 20.

Another 46 individuals, apparently moved by race-car driver Dale Earnhardt's death in the Daytona 500, suggested his name, despite his lack of a known Toledo connection.

Mr. Earnhardt outpolled Sgt. Alexander Drabik, a Toledo winner of the Medal of Honor for heroism during World War II, who was nominated 42 times.

Retired WTOL-TV news anchorman Jeff Heitz got 42 nominations, while his Channel 11 co-anchor Chrys Peterson got just one - and that was with her first name misspelled.

Mr. Heitz got about as many votes as former Ohio Gov. James A. Rhodes, whose name was promoted heavily by local Republican leaders. While most Rhodes nominations appeared to have been submitted in earnest, one was for the “James Rhodes Legacy Bridge,” while another was the “Cross Rhodes” bridge.

Religious leaders were among the suggestions, including “Billy Graham Crossing” and the “Bishop William James Memorial Bridge.” Native American names were proposed by more than a dozen people, including “Cherokee Crossing” and the “Potawatomie” Bridge.

On the political front, three nominees favored President George W. Bush while two suggested President Clinton in the name.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), who helped secure federal funding for the project, was suggested in 60 nominations.

And Mayor Finkbeiner, though negatively referred to in some nominations, was honored by 40 people who called for his name to be on the bridge starting with his formal first name (Carleton), his first name and middle initial (S), or just the familiar (Carty).

At least one individual nomination of a Toledo native carries a notorious connotation: the “Martin Frankel Memorial Bridge” was proposed in honor of the renegade financier now facing numerous federal charges for fraud and embezzlement.

The steamship Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank in a Lake Superior gale in November 1975, killing its mostly Toledo-area crew, had the second-most nominated name with 69 entries.

“Glass” was by far the most-cited local industry, named in hundreds of nominations as well as in suggestions for the “Crystal Bridge” and the “Prism Bridge.” More than 20 different references included “Jeep” and its corporate predecessor, Willys Overland.

About 60 nominations contained some form of “Frogtown,” a Toledo nickname recently revived with a public art display of ceramic frogs. Other monikers pegged to the city's past included “Port Lawrence” and “Vistula” as well as the area's beginnings as the “Black Swamp.” The latter phrase made it into more than a dozen suggestions in front of bridge or crossing.

“Bridge of” began dozens of nominations that included the following words: Glory, Heroes, Hope, Light, Many Hands, Opportunity, Peace, Revival, the Future, and the Millennium.

About 80 nominees proposed the span be called the “Liberty Bridge.” “Silver” and “Sky” were also popular; the latter had “Harp,” “High,” “Line,” “Path,” “Point,” “Level,” and other terms added to the full suggestion.

More than a dozen nominations suggested names playing off the bridge's multiple strings of cables by including the word “harp” or “banjo” in the names. But only one suggested the strings of cables were worthy of its appearance as a “Sail Bridge.”

“Toledo” by itself or paired with other words (“Toledo Gateway,” “Toledo Glass,” etc.) was suggested by hundreds, but the naming committee included the city's name in only two nominations and both were paired with another word.

At least one nominee apparently wants to see the fuss over the name end and the span built so motorists no longer have to wait for the drawbridge on the Craig Memorial Bridge over I-280. That suggestion: the “Bout Time” Bridge.

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