What is a Bridge? Bethlehem Edition I

I was in the midst of trying to understand what is a viaduct when I traveled to Bethlehem, PA, with my family. One of our activities was to explore the bridges (see also Cage-free Bridges). As we walked the Hill-to-Hill Bridge, my initial reaction was “now here is a viaduct.” I hadn’t reached the point of developing a semi-clear definition for viaduct but looking at the flat roadbed supported by multiple arches over the floodplain, viaduct seemed the most appropriate word for the structure.

As we kept walking, it turned out that the viaduct was only a portion of the Hill-to-Hill Bridge. In fact, it would be more appropriately called the Hill-to-Hill-to-Hill-to-Hill Bridge. There are two approaches to the main span on the south end and three on the north end, including the viaduct and one approach permanently closed to through traffic. When the bridge was built in 1924, there were a total of seven approaches at various points along the main span. With so many components, this structure brings me back to the question of how many is one bridge?

Unlike when I asked this question of the 30th and 31st Street bridges in Pittsburgh, here the main bridge, the intersecting viaduct, and the numerous connections seem to be considered one bridge. They are together called the Hill-to-Hill Bridge while the structure in Pittsburgh has three distinct names (including River Avenue Ramp). Perhaps the deciding factor in whether it is one or more bridges is the original intent. The Hill-to-Hill Bridge was designed as a multifaceted structure whereas the 30th and 31st Street bridges were developed independently.

The best indication of the original intent seems to be the name. The Hill-to-Hill Bridge has a single name whereas the 30th and 31st Street bridges have separate names. The other examples I looked at in 2012 were the Veterans Bridge (Pittsburgh), the Fort Duquesne Bridge (Pittsburgh), and what I called the Jubilee Bridge (London).

The Veterans Bridge joins three approaches into one bridge, all under a single name. Therefore, it is one bridge, not three.

The pedestrian walkway of the Fort Duquesne Bridge was built decades after the vehicular portion but does not have a separate name. Therefore, it is one bridge, not two.

What I called the Jubilee Bridge (despite the photo I took at the time of the dedication plaque stating otherwise) is actually called the Golden Jubilee Bridges. While these bridges share the support structure of the underground’s Hungerford Bridge due to concerns about unexploded WWII bombs in the area, they have separate names. Therefore, it is three bridges, not one nor two.


Other posts in this series:

What is a Bridge? Pittsburgh Edition I (July 18, 2012)

What is a Bridge? Pittsburgh Edition II (July 27, 2012)

What is a Bridge? Chicago Edition I (April 18, 2013)

What is a Bridge? Chicago Edition II (February 1, 2020)

What is a Bridge? Bethlehem Edition II (July 15, 2020)

Mural of Weeds

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I love this mural.  It was put up two years ago along one of the worst stretches of the trail along the Allegheny River.  This is in downtown Pittsburgh, feet away from The Point, and yet it is a barren wasteland of concrete.  Next to one highway ramp and underneath another, the only good features are the river and the view to the north side where the trail has many features and improvements including the well-loved water steps.

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For me, this mural by Kim Beck is aptly named Adjutant, the non-military definition of which is “one who helps” according to Merriam-Webster.  While this stretch of trail is still a wasteland of concrete and weeds (which the mural accurately depicts), it is no longer a creepy section of trail to be hurried through as fast as possible.  Somehow by acknowledging the barrenness, the mural has taken away the edge.

The deadline has just passed on a call for ideas for a new installation at this location, but I am torn about this call.  While it would be nice to have this section of trail feel more connected with the rest of the trail, a part of me is going to miss the honesty of this mural of weeds.

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.