16th Street Bridge-Developments


The southern end of the 16th Street Bridge soars over an area that is currently provoking controversy in the city.  It is a site where there are what feels like be miles of barren (although used) parking lots right up against the river on either side of the bridge.  It is a very un-pedestrian-friendly area and a very unattractive place.  Alongside these parking lots on one side of the bridge is the historically significant produce terminal building.  While a developer has put forward a plan to redevelop the area, connecting the existing Strip District to the Allegheny River and adding new mixed development in place of the parking lots, part of the plan requires a partial demolition of the produce terminal.  (A description of this intended development can be read in the article linked here.)

In the beginning of June, City Councilman Dowd began holding up funding for the project, saying he wanted more information about how the funding was to be used (see article).  Then about a week ago, two more councilmen voiced their wish for more information about the use of the funding as well as other aspects of the project such as how the community has been engaged (see article).  Another newspaper article from a few days ago, describes a lawsuit being filed about the property and the development.  This article explains, “The lawsuit alleges that the city is not following its own stormwater management program nor that of the federal Environmental Protection Agency in allowing the project.”

Based on what I’m learning in my internship this summer, this seems like the opposition against, or at least concerns, about the project are piling high enough to prevent the development from happening.  As I am not a fan of harsh, stark parking lots currently in place, it would be a shame for the project to fall through.  However, if the claims of the opposition are true, then it seems we need to find someone else to develop the site.  As awful as the parking lots are, their removal is not worth the price of poorly spent funds, no community engagement, and poor storm water management.  The last concern is the most significant given the fact that the city’s storm water management already causes problems.  (For more related to this issue seen my Heth’s Run Bridge post.)

One River Down!!

This week I officially crossed all the pedestrian accessible bridges in Pittsburgh across the Allegheny River.  I still have a few more to post about, but I’m so excited about having reached this milestone, I had to share it with my readers.  I finished the legwork and now just need to complete the fingerwork to be geographically one-third of the way to reach my goal for the summer.

Of the 20 bridges I initially identified as pedestrian accessible over the three rivers in Pittsburgh (see May 30th post), 10 cross the Allegheny River.  It turns out one of these that I identified wasn’t actually pedestrian accessible, though I posted about it anyway (see June 24th post).  However, it turns out that I missed a bridge on the Allegheny when picking them out on the map.  So I still crossed 10 out of 20 bridges.

I have been using the term pedestrian accessible because not all of the bridges I crossed were necessarily pedestrian friendly.  From the Point downtown up to the 31st Street Bridge (see July 19 post) the bridges were mostly pedestrian friendly.  The 31st Street Bridge begins to get a little dubious.  Farther upriver, while the bridges remain accessible, they are not particularly pedestrian friendly.  See Highland Park Bridge, Washington’s Crossing Bridge and The Last Allegheny River Bridge posts.

16th Street Bridge

Pittsburgh’s 16th Street Bridge was quite interesting.  I was surprised by how many people were crossing it.  As there is only one pedestrian in my picture above, there obviously weren’t crowds of people, but compared to the other bridges upriver that I’ve crossed there were a lot.  I thought this bridge was far enough out from downtown that the sidewalks wouldn’t be used much.  Also there didn’t seem to me to be much development on either side of the river that would promote walking across the river.  For all the bridges downriver from this point, one side is connected to downtown and the other is connected to a sports stadium and/or large office buildings.  While at the 16th Street Bridge there are some offices near the southern end and some apartments near the northern end, there didn’t seem to be enough for people to be using the bridge so much.  One explanation I came upon was that it was lunch time and both ends of the bridge connect or almost connect with the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.  It seemed like it would be a nice loop for downtown workers to walk the trail on one side of the river, cross the 16th Street Bridge, and return to work on the other side over lunch break.


The view on the left of downtown fascinated me.  It looks like there are two clumps of tall buildings (the yellow post doesn’t block any tall buildings).  However, the view on the right supports something I heard in one of my classes which I sort of scoffed at at the time.  I don’t remember exactly how it went, but it was something like the US Steel building (now labeled UPMC) was the center point of a triangle of downtown buildings and as such had to be the tallest.  I think part of the reason I had an issue with it was because the building is located in the middle of a side of the triangle and so the term “apex” or “center point” or whatever the teacher used didn’t fit my sense of geometry.  Actually, regardless of the term used, having the center of the base of a triangle as the focal point doesn’t match my sense of geometry.  However, in the view from the 16th Street Bridge, I can accept the US Steel building as the tallest and therefore a focal point because from this view, the buildings gradually increase in height until reaching it.

This graffiti symbol was painted on the sidewalk of the 16th Street Bridge.  I will not go into a discussion about it here, as I have come across it somewhere else that provokes a much more interesting conversation about it.  I was very surprised and intrigued to see it on this bridge as well, as I have only noticed it in one other place in the city, which isn’t exactly next door.  Although now that I’ve spotted it twice, I will be keeping my eyes open for it.

Maps are Awesome!

While talking with someone recently, we discovered we shared a seemingly rare love of maps.  Maps are truly awesome and useful tools and not just for figuring out how to get from one place to another.  Maps provide insight into what a place looks like, giving clues about the layout and geography of a place you’ve never been.  Street names and other labels can hint at the history of the place.  Historical maps show what a place looked like in times past.

I have used maps several times to help me with writing my blog and there are many more times when I should have gone to a map first. As I mentioned in the first Heth’s Run Bridge post, the G.M. Hopkins maps on Historic Pittsburgh are probably my favorite resource for Pittsburgh.  Heth’s Run Bridge presented many puzzles that the maps helped me understand.  I realized yesterday that I probably should have gone to these maps first when wanting to figure out which bridge remnant I saw from the Fort Duquesne Bridge (see June 19’s post).  While writing that post, I did a search on the internet, but came up with nothing.  The G.M. Hopkins maps came to the rescue, although there are two possibilities for which bridge the remnant belonged to.  The first possibility I found on the 1900 map.  This one was called the Union Bridge.  By 1929, the Union Bridge was gone and another bridge connected the Point to the North Side.  This one was called Manchester Bridge.  This bridge was demolished in 1970, by which time the Fort Duquesne Bridge was built (see June 19th post).  I made a few other discoveries about Pittsburgh while looking at the 1929 map.  First, Penn and Liberty avenues used to come straight through to Water Road which ran along the northern shore of the Monongahela River.  Today these avenues stop much further inland.  The second major discovery was that Point Park already existed in 1929.  It was significantly smaller than it is today, but it is there.

Google Maps helped me with identify the buildings near Lambeth Bridge (see June 28th post) that I didn’t take the time to stop and investigate while I was walking the bridge.  Several of the buildings I was able to identify from labels that Google Maps conveniently placed on the map.  The Parliament View Apartments weren’t labeled, but using Google Maps’s other wonderful feature–Street View–I was able to find a sign on the building identifying it.

The image leading this post is of another highly convenient map.  On my recent trip to Cleveland, I arrived Downtown 2 hours before the person I was visiting finished work.  We arranged to meet at their place of work, but I was only familiar with two or three of the streets in downtown Cleveland, and the meeting place wasn’t on any of them.  I had just decided to use my skills of logic to find it (which would have been feasible in this case as one of the cross streets was a numbered street and the other was called Lakeside) when I came across this map on a street corner.  It turns out that these maps are posted regularly around downtown Cleveland, which I thought was very considerate of the city.  It made the city feel like it welcomed visitors with open arms, engaging them in being engaged in the city.  Even though I had a plan for finding where I was going without a map, I prefer being safe rather than sorry, so I took the easy way out and used the map to figure out where I was supposed to end up.  I also used it to plot out how I could spend the time I had until my friend got out of work to cross at least one of Cleveland’s bridges over the river Cuyahoga.  I ended up getting distracted from this goal, but that is a story for another day….(see July 9 post)….

Veterans Bridge

The Veterans Bridge is one of the bridges I will not be walking in Pittsburgh because it doesn’t have pedestrian access.  It carries another one of the freeways over the Allegheny River.  As discussed in the Fort Duquesne Bridge post, freeways and pedestrians usually don’t mix.

The reason that I am including a post on this bridge, as my focus is on the bridges that I walk, is that it adds to the discussion of how many bridges are there in Pittsburgh.  As the Veterans Bridge, I consider it a single bridge entity.  However, the image above shows that there are three separate entities that make up the bridge, at least as it crosses over the parking lots in The Strip (I believe at least two of these merge before the bridge crosses the river).  So the question is, do these three elevated roadways get counted as three separate bridges in addition to the bridge over the river?  If that is the case, then it is easy to see how Pittsburgh can outrank Venice in the number of bridges each city has.  Though I have yet to go to Venice, I image its bridges are more like London’s bridges where there is only one roadway and few or no elevated ramps/roadways to approach the bridge.

Three Sisters: 7th Street Bridge

The final of the Three Sisters is the 7th Street Bridge.  This one is named after Andy Warhol, which makes since as the Andy Warhol Museum is located about two blocks from the northern end of the bridge.  Another attraction on the northern end is the “new” Alcoa building.  Alcoa, an aluminum company, moved from their skyscraper downtown to this blue glass, wavy building in 1998 (the building on the right in the picture above).  The former Alcoa Building downtown (which people still call the Alcoa Building) is unusual with its aluminum walls and pod-like windows.  It was turned over to a consortium of non-profit groups, but has lately been plagued with high vacancy rates.  A recent newspaper article announced a plan to convert the upper portion to apartments and retain the lower portion for the existing tenants.  I haven’t been inside the old building, but the new one is quite swanky.  It reminds me a bit of a building used in the first Jason Bourne film for the headquarters of a firm that sells giant yachts to billionaires.

The 7th Street Bridge was the first of the Three Sisters to be built in 1926.  The 6th Street Bridge, aka Roberto Clemente Bridge, was built downriver (see June 14th post) and the 9th Street  Bridge, aka Rachel Carson Bridge, was built upriver (see June 21st post) a few years later.  Its location in-between the other two bridges means that the views from it are not much different.  The view upstream is almost identical to that from the 9th Street Bridge, except that the 9th Street Bridge is added to the mass of bridges, making the view more cluttered.  Downstream, there is still a nice view of Mt. Washington and a good view of Kayak Pittsburgh under the 6th Street Bridge.


Three Sisters: 9th Street Bridge

I decided to address each of the Three Sisters separately after all and for some reason to do it out of order (which is quite unusual for me as I am generally very methodical).  The 9th Street Bridge is also called the Rachel Carson Bridge.  Rachel Carson was an environmentalist who grew up near Pittsburgh and attended college at the forerunner of Chatham University (one of Pittsburgh’s many universities).  The bridge was named in her honor on Earth Day in 2006.  Unlike the other Three Sisters Bridges, there is no specific reason why this bridge should have been named for Rachel Carson.  The 6th Street Bridge (see June 14th post) renamed for Roberto Clemente, a former Pirates player, connects to PNC Park, the current home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, while the 7th Street Bridge renamed for Andy Warhol connects to the Andy Warhol Museum (see June 22 post).  As far as I am aware, there is no similar connection between the location of the 9th Street Bridge and its namesake.

As far as my observations go, this bridge is the least used of the Three Sisters.  The south end of the bridge is near CAPA High School (for performing arts) and the Convention Center, but the north end does not connect to any buildings or sights that seem like they attract much traffic, while the north end of the other two connect to a museum and a ballpark.  In addition to the surroundings, the condition of the bridge suggested that it is not as well cared for (perhaps because there is less traffic) than the others.  There are two stone pillars at each end of each of the three bridges.  One of these on the Rachel Carson Bridge was almost completely covered in vines and weeds.  The side facing into the bridge holds the plaque identifying the bridge and was the only side not covered in growth.  On second thought, perhaps this is not due to a lack of maintenance but rather in recognition of the fact that Rachel Carson was an environmentalist.

The views up and downriver from the Rachel Carson Bridge encompass mostly the other bridges around it.  Upriver are a railroad bridge, the Veteran’s Bridge (see June 24 post), and the 16th Street Bridge (see July 13 and July 14 posts).  However, rising above these bridges is the Children’s Hospital in Lawrenceville, another iconic Pittsburgh building visible from multiple points around the city and displaying a color scheme as intriguing as any of the London bridges.

A Sidewalk to Nowhere

For those who may not want to walk the 6th Street Bridge (click to view June 14th’s post) to get from downtown Pittsburgh to a Steelers or Pitt football game, the Fort Duquesne Bridge provides a pleasant alternative.  As the picture above indicates, the sidewalk is not directly connected to the bridge for most of the way.  The walkway starts from a pleasant path through Point State Park (which means crossing the Bridge Under a Bridge, June 15th’s post) and ends on the North Side about halfway between PNC Park and Heinz Field.

I was surprised by how new and clean this bridge appeared.  Before crossing, I had my doubts as to whether there was a pedestrian path across the Allegheny at this point as Fort Duquesne Bridge carries one of the interstates and pedestrians and interstates do not usually go together.  At first I thought the newness of this pedestrian bridge accounted for the presence of the pedestrian access, but then I saw the sidewalk to nowhere on the Fort Duquesne Bridge itself.

This suggested that at the time the bridge was built in the late 1950s and early 1960s, people were not quite as adverse to having pedestrians and interstates share infrastructure.  However, this is evidence of the violence of the feelings against such an arrangement today.  PGHbridges.com has a picture of this severely truncated sidewalk that includes a remnant of the staircase that used to lead to it.  I do not believe that the staircase remnant exists any longer.  When I saw the sidewalk to nowhere I looked around for some sign of where it used to go and did not find any, but I cannot remember if I looked down.  I have walked around the part of Point State Park near where the staircase would have been several times and never noticed any steps.  I will look carefully the next time I am there to make sure they have been completely removed.

While I have been referring to the Fort Duquesne Pedestrian Bridge as new, it is actually over 10 years old.  Though I have not been able to find an exact date for its construction and/or opening, it was in use before the demolition of Three Rivers Stadium in 2001.  (Here are two YouTube videos of the demolition: one and two.  I find it fascinating that the demolition was celebrated with fireworks.)  A website with directions between North Side, Point State Park, and the Duquesne Incline refers to the “new pedestrian bridge” that provides access to Three Rivers Stadium accompanied by a photo of the stadium taken before the start of the construction of Heinz Field in 1999.  This website has no dates, but based on this information the pedestrian bridge must be over 13 years old, which I suppose is still fairly new for a bridge, but it is older than I had imagined.

There is a nice view downriver from this bridge.  Several famous Pittsburgh sites are included in the view: the Point, the Duquesne Incline, and Heinz Field.  Other sites of interest in this view are the Carnegie Science Center, the West End Bridge, and the remnant of a former bridge across the Allegheny.  The view upriver is partially obstructed by the wire mesh fence along the interstate bridge.  I did get a couple of shots that you can mostly make out what is there.  One shows downtown Pittsburgh and the other shows the bridges upriver including the Three Sisters (see June 14th, June 21, and June 22 post) and a railroad bridge.  There is an item of interest I want to point out in this second view: just about in the middle of the frame, the domes of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church on Polish Hill.  This is one of my favorite buildings in Pittsburgh, because of its unique green domes that are a significant landmark visible for miles up and down the Allegheny River.


I have to add that I chose the name for this post (A Sidewalk to Nowhere) before I was aware that the Fort Duquesne Bridge’s nickname is “The Bridge to Nowhere.”  While the pedestrian bridge attachment connects two points, the Bridge itself does not directly connect any points of interest.  Instead it ferries cars from one interstate to another.  The north end of the bridge continues onto elevated ramps in between various highways and freeways.  The south end connects seamlessly to the Fort Pitt Bridge and Tunnels by way of the Portal Bridge (mentioned in June 15th’s post) and though there is also some access to downtown it is directed to the roadways along the rivers that permit cars to bypass downtown.

Three Sisters: 6th Street Bridge

Originally, I thought I would write one post about the Three Sisters Bridges in Pittsburgh as they look identical and are so close together that their views of the city would not vary much.  However, after walking them, I decided that the 6th Street Bridge has enough going for it to deserve its own post.  (The other two Sisters are the 7th and 9th Street Bridges.)

The 6th Street Bridge is very active (much more so than its two sister bridges) and as such, I have walked over it multiple times.  It connects Downtown to the North Shore right next to PNC Park (the Pirates baseball stadium).  On game days the bridge is often closed to vehicular traffic, so that people who park, live, or work downtown as well as those who take public transit downtown can walk to the stadium across the bridge without crowding the sidewalks.  I believe this is true for baseball games as well as football games, both University of Pittsburgh and Steelers, down river at Heinz Stadium.  This bridge is also closed off to vehicles as part of the route for Pittsburgh’s annual Turkey Trot, which I participated in last year with several members of my family.

In my walk across the Three Sisters, I found additional reasons beyond the special closings of the bridge for writing about the 6th Street Bridge separately from the other two.

First, I discovered that the bridges are not completely identical.  In 1928, the 6th Street Bridge won the Most Beautiful Steel Bridge Award.  After crossing the Three Sisters, I agree that the 6th Street Bridge truly is the most beautiful (at least of the three).  This is because of the light fixtures.  The 7th and 9th Street Bridges have normal, ordinary street lights painted yellow, whereas the 6th Street Bridge has classic black posted street lamps (see image below).  Though all three had hanging flower baskets, the difference in the lamps made the flowers on the 6th Street Bridge look more vibrant and beautiful than those on the other two bridges.

The second reason for discussing the Three Sisters Bridges separately is because they each have alternate names.  The 6th Street Bridge is also called the Roberto Clemente Bridge.  The bridge was renamed in the late 1990s.  Roberto was a former Pirates player, who I remember learning about in elementary school as being an important force in combating racism in sports.  There is a plaque honoring Roberto on the bridge.

Another piece of interest about the 6th Street Bridge is that Kayak Pittsburgh is located underneath the bridge on the north side.  Ever since I moved to Pittsburgh, I’ve heard of Kayak Pittsburgh and its location, but I could never truly understand where it was.  The hut on the water near the bridge that I thought was Kayak Pittsburgh for years is actually the shed for river emergency services.  When I walked over the 6th Street Bridge this time, I approached it from the Three Rivers Trail on the north side, and finally saw Kayak Pittsburgh.  The last time and perhaps only time I was on that part of the trail was the middle of winter, so there weren’t any kayaks or kayakers to see.


Highland Park Bridge

The Highland Park Bridge, built 1938 (technical information can be found here), connects Pittsburgh’s Highland Park neighborhood to Route 28, Apsinwall, Sharpesburg, and the Waterworks Mall.  As a pedestrian this bridge is awkward at best.  There is sidewalk only on the western, down-stream side of the bridge, with a cement divider between the sidewalk and the road with the cars passing at around 45 mph and a metal, mesh fence keeping whoever’s using the sidewalk on the bridge.  The sidewalk is pretty narrow and is decorated with dirt and liter.  The best pedestrian approach to the bridge from the city side of the river starts at the intersection of Baker and Butler Streets.  It is a simple t-intersection with a light and a cross-walk on one side.  I believe it is technically possible to cross to the river side of Butler at One Wild Place, but the intersection there is far more complicated with no visible crosswalk and I doubt drivers even consider the possibility of pedestrians crossing at this point.

Once across Butler (from the intersection at Baker), turn right and cross Heth’s Run Bridge (see June 9 post for description of sidewalk conditions, see May 31 post for more info on this bridge).  As mentioned in the June 9 post on Heth’s Run Bridge, the sidewalk narrows considerably at this point and is broken and half covered in weeds and dirt.  For over 500 feet from the end of this bridge to the ramp for the Highland Park bridge there is no divider between the sidewalk and the street where cars tend to travel quickly.  On the ramp, the weeds go away and the cement divider starts.  At the other end of the bridge, there is a small gap in the divider for pedestrians to cross one of the on ramps for the bridge.  The view of on-coming traffic is often impeded by overgrown weeds/bushes.  Once across this lane, the sidewalk follows another on/off ramp of the bridge around 360 degrees to meet up with Freeport Road which passes underneath the bridge.  While this is the most pleasant part of the bridge as the area inside the circle is a well-maintained grassy spot, it feels a bit ridiculous as a pedestrian to walk around in such a wide circle.

I have walked this bridge several times now, in part because bus service between the East End (which includes Highland Park) and the Waterworks Mall was severely cut a few years ago.  A runner once passed me and bicyclists have passed me multiple times, however I have never encountered (or observed while driving across) any other pedestrians on the Highland Park Bridge.

There a couple of sights of interest from the bridge.  First is the lock.  Quite serendipitously the day I brought my camera to document my crossing of the Highland Park Bridge was the only time I’ve crossed when the lock was in use. The one thing I couldn’t figure out is how they would get the first barge out of the lock when the tug boat is on the higher level water with the second barge.

This is the second sight of interest is pictured above. If there was a place in Pittsburgh that would produce a comic book superhero, it would be here.  The hole in the picture above often gets filled with rainwater that stagnates and on some occasions turns an eerie, neon-like green color–the perfect toxic dump to produce superpowers.  I assume this site is some sort of scrap metal processing place.  A search on Google did not come up with any satisfactory responses.  One day when I walked past, a magnet was lifting up pieces and dropping them down repeatedly.  Whatever the site is, it is one of the reminders of Pittsburgh’s nitty-gritty industrial past.


The upstream and downstream photos present a snapshot of what this part of the city looks like.  Downstream, the 62nd Street Bridge, aka R.D. Fleming Bridge, (see July 24 post) downtown Sharpsburg, Six Mile Island, and lots of trees are visible.  Upstream, trees, a railroad bridge, a dock for personal boats, and the roof of one of the waterworks processing buildings are visible.  Overall there is a very rural feeling six miles up the Allegheny from downtown.