Renaming Bridges

There is a proposal to rename at least one of Pittsburgh’s bridges.  Apparently, Allegheny County has been considering renaming its bridges for at least the last year.  According to a July 25th article in the Post-Gazette, the county council’s public works committee passed a motion to rename the 16th Street Bridge after the historian David McCullough, who is from Pittsburgh.  I must not have read the paper that day as I’m sure the headline would have grabbed my attention: “Allegheny County May Rename the 16th Street Bridge for McCullough.”

The first that I became aware of this proposal was Wednesday this week (Aug. 22nd) when another article announced that the whole county council voted on the proposal and passed it.  This article does not commit to which bridge will be renamed.  Though it later says that the 16th Street bridge is the most likely, it starts by saying “a major span” may be named after McCullough.  This really got me interested.  As I’ve discovered from walking and writing about Pittsburgh’s bridges, many of the bridges already have alternative names that honor someone.  I believe that most people in Pittsburgh are aware that the Three Sisters Bridges have alternative names, but I don’t think people are as aware that the 40th Street Bridge also has an alternative name.  So, I wondered, which “major spans” in Pittsburgh are left to be renamed?

I believe that “major spans” probably translates to bridges over the three rivers.  Here follows a list of the bridges spanning the rivers and any alternative names they have.

On the Allegheny River:

Fort Duquesne Bridge-The Bridge to Nowhere (see post)

6th Street Bridge-Roberto Clemente Bridge (see post)

7th Street Bridge-Andy Warhol Bridge (see post)

9th Street Bridge-Rachel Carson Bridge (see post)

Fort Wayne Railroad Bridge

Veteran’s Bridge (see post)

16th Street Bridge (see post)

31st Street Bridge (see post)

33rd Street Railroad Bridge-B&O Railroad Bridge

40th Street Bridge-Washington’s Crossing Bridge (see post)

62nd Street Bridge-R. D. Fleming Bridge (see post)

Highland Park Bridge (see post)

Brilliant Branch Railroad Bridge

On the Monongahela River:

Fort Pitt Bridge-Parkway West (see post)

Smithfield Street Bridge (see post)

Monongahela Bridge-Panhandle Bridge (railroad)

Liberty Bridge-South Hills Bridge

(South) 10th Street Bridge (see post)

Birmingham Bridge (see post and post)

Monongahela Connecting Railroad Bridge (see post)

Hot Metal Bridge (see post)

Glenwood Bridge (see post)

Bridge Number 73-Glenwood Bridge: B&O Railroad

Homestead Grays Bridge-Homestead High Level Bridge (see post)

On the Ohio River:

West End Bridge-West End/North Side Bridge

Ohio Connecting Railroad Bridge

McKees Rocks Bridge

The 16th, 31st, and 10th Street Bridges are the most likely candidates for being renamed.  Other bridges like the Highland Park Bridge and the West End Bridge could be renamed to honor someone or something.  Some bridges with only one name such as the Hot Metal and Veteran’s bridges already honor or refer to something historical and it would be a shame to replace with a new name.  (Of course not all of these bridges are within the county’s jurisdiction.)

While I am talking about bridge names, I realize I should have had a discussion about the name of the Birmingham Bridge when I posted about that bridge as its name is somewhat significant.  Pittsburgh’s South Side, before it was annexed to the city, was the village of Birmingham.  So this is another bridge that should not be renamed as this tidbit of history could then be easier to lose.

The Aug. 22nd article in the paper said that there is an unofficial suggestion that a bridge should be renamed for Art Rooney, Sr., the founding owner of the Steelers.  If McCullough gets the 16th Street Bridge, perhaps the West End Bridge or 31st Street Bridge should be the one to be renamed for Rooney as he lived on the North Side and they are the only significant bridges left that connect to that part of Pittsburgh.

Another article of interest relating to the discussion of renaming bridges was published yesterday.  It discusses the dilemma of whether or not a living person should be honored in such a way.

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.