Then & Now: Terminal Way Bridge

Last month’s look back at the 40th Street Bridge wrapped up the Allegheny River watershed portion of our 10-year anniversary Then & Now series. This month, we start revisiting bridges in the Monongahela River watershed.

The Terminal Way Bridge – now called The Highline – is unique in the Pittsburgh bridges I’ve walked as it is not a through-way. It is an elevated passage that connects five buildings of a former large warehouse operation. The bridge was previously a car road and parking lot. Pure speculation based on the small factoids and selection of historic photos on the Highline website suggests that at one time, this road was were good were loaded onto local delivery vehicles. Now, it is closed to all vehicular traffic and is instead an outdoor amenity space, exclusively for pedestrians and bicyclists.

While I walked over the bridge multiple times before the renovation, I was never inspired to take a photo of the parking lot that it was. I did, however, take photos of it from below which are still able to show the change from car parking to planters. They also show the change from former warehouse to a place poised to become a hip place is town.

Then & Now: 40th Street Bridge

The next bridge in the 10-year look back at urbantraipsing bridge walking is the 40th Street Bridge, which is about a mile from last month’s featured bridge: Herron Ave Bridge. The 40th Street Bridge, aka Washington’s Crossing Bridge, crosses the Allegheny River connecting Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood with the Borough of Millvale.

I first walked the 40th Street Bridge before I had the idea to blog about bridge walking, but as I had my camera with me, I took views from the bridge. Since then, the quality of my cameras has grown exponentially and several developments have arisen on the Lawrenceville side of the river. On the upriver side of the bridge, there is a new apartment complex, The Foundry at 41st, and a new office building, TechMill 41 (see the first pair of photos below).

On the downriver side, phase 1 of the large Arsenal 201 mixed-use development was completed on the former site of the Allegheny Arsenal famous for supplying munitions to the Union Army during the Civil War (see the second pair of photos below). The arsenal is perhaps even more famous for the accidental explosion that is identified as the worst civilian casualty of the war killing 78 people, mostly women and girls. Phase 2 of this development is well under way.

Also, on that side of the bridge, some of the new developments on Butler Avenue near Our Lady of the Angels Parish St. Augustine Church are visible including the new Capuchin Friars home (third pair of photos) and one of the new mixed-use buildings that have popped up in the neighborhood over the last 10 years.

Then & Now: 16th Street Bridge

urbantraipsing turns 10 in May. To mark a decade of urban-traipsing and bridge-walking, I will be revisiting twelve of the Pittsburgh bridges I walked early on to see the changes 10 years brought to them and their surroundings.

I started walking and photographing bridges to get different angles and views of the city. In 2012, the 16th Street Bridge provided views of two major, controversial development sites: the Produce Terminal and the former St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church.

During the summer of 2012, the Produce Terminal seemed on the cusp of being redeveloped, and partly demolished. However, significant opposition to the demolition plans killed that proposal. For years there was no visible progress. Eventually, after extensive negotiations, a new development proposal was approved and implemented (see the first photo pair below). Simultaneously, several new developments popped up nearby, replacing much of the sea of parking I complained about in my original post on the bridge (see the second and third photo pairs below).

The former St Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church was visible from the 16th Street Bridge in 2012. Six months later, it was demolished to make way for the widening of Route 28 despite parishioners efforts to save their church (see a 2013 Tribune Review article for more). I followed the story of their fight for their building closely at the time, which is what I believe prompted me to take a photo of the church from the bridge (see the fourth photo pair below).

New Bethlehem Memorial Bridge

The New Bethlehem, PA, Memorial Bridge holds a special place in my heart. After going through the woods for hours on the way to grandmother’s house, New Bethlehem was a landmark that we were getting close. A few more wooded hills and a few more river crossings and we’d be there.

I wonder if in addition to the answer to “are we there yet?” changing from “no” to “almost,” I also enjoyed the intimacy of New Bethlehem after hours on the impersonal and distant freeway. In the previous five hours of diving, we crossed many bridges over many waterways including both the eastern and western branches of the Susquehanna River. But what little I remember of the bridges on Rt 80, they are distant from the water and between the speed and concrete barriers, there is not much to see. At New Bethlehem, the water is right there, almost within reach. Plus there’s a mini waterfall to enjoy.

In my new habit of taking “Sunday drives” (though usually on Saturday), I recently wended my way through the hills to drive across this bridge again for the first time since I was 12 (and first time across as the driver). Of course, I stopped the car to be able to get out and walk across. There is a nice riverfront park on the eastern side, which is either “new” or just not as noticeable when driving.

Layers of the City: Chicago Edition

The first place to show me how a city can be stacked like a layer cake, Chicago provided ample opportunities to explore all levels of the city. The experience of noticing the expansion joints in roads that I assumed were on solid ground opened my eyes to the possibilities of stacking uses.

Underground Life

A vacant lot two stories below street level solved the mystery of the expansion joints, by exposing the inner guts.  Two more roads sit below street level to segregate trash pick-up and deliveries from the flow of traffic.  These lover levels also provide some opportunities for parking without monopolizing valuable real estate above.  Retail shops connected by pedestrian passageways are also interspersed in these layers.

River Life

At the same elevation as the “underground life,” the Chicago River flows through the heart of the city.  On and along the river are a variety of activities.  Pedestrian paths, cafes, housing, parks, industrial uses, and homeless encampments line the shores.  Meanwhile, the river abounds with ducks, boat tours, water taxis, construction staging, and marinas.

Street Level

Back up on the street level, life buzzes.  Vehicular and pedestrian traffic rush passed, occasionally pealing off to visit the numerous shops, offices, museums, restaurants, cafes, parks, and trails.

Pie in the Sky

Yet, more life looms above.  Several of the skyscrapers have penthouse, or nearly penthouse, restaurants.  Others have rooftop observation platforms.  Between these and the street are many other opportunities for enjoying life including a religious sanctuary, the “L”, gardens, art, pedestrian bridges, and of course, offices, apartments, hotel rooms, and shops.

Unlike Pittsburgh, in Chicago, the public is welcome in some form on every level to gain a full experience of the city.

Flood Measures

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There is an enormous floodwall on the Covington, KY, side of the Roebling bridge, which spans the Ohio River.  It shocked me to see such a huge wall when I was there last year.  I wondered if there couldn’t have been some other means of flood control that would not have produced such a large barrier.  It reminded me of the significant physical barriers to the waterfront that I observed in Erie, Pittsburgh, Homestead, PA, and Cleveland.  Unlike Erie, Homestead, and Cleveland, Covington did not have any significant economic drivers separated from the town by the barrier wall.  The river side only had a small park and parking lot.

In addition to acting as a barrier, the sheer massiveness of the flat concrete wall bothered me.  I wanted to see it broken up into staggered segments, even though I knew that would not be useful in a structure intended to block the path of water.  However, Covington handled the flat wall with style by turning it into a canvas for a giant mural.  Almost as long as the wall itself, this mural depicts the history of the crossing at this location from 8000 BCE to the present day.  While the mural did not help with the scale of the wall, it broke the monotony while turning it into a destination for its own sake.

In the back of my mind, this wall continued to bother me until observing the effects of the significant flooding experienced in Pittsburgh this year at the forks of the Ohio River (see Checking on the Rivers and The Aftermath).  A google search showed me that the flooding Pittsburgh experienced in February this year also affected the Covington-Cincinnati region in the worst flood in that area since 1997.  The concept of a wall still bothers me, but this one probably prevents a lot of property damage and Covington has taken steps to soften its negative effects.

Engaging Riverfronts

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Cincinnati’s riverfront park with swings

There is a proposal in Pittsburgh to introduce a new feature to its riverfronts: swings.  I am excited about this possibility as a swing lover and as someone who wants to see more welcoming and engaging spaces along Pittsburgh’s rivers.  One of the inspirations for this idea are swings found in Cincinnati’s riverfront park.  Last summer, I happened upon that park in a search for bridges by Roebling.  On an ordinary summer evening, this enormous riverfront park was filled with people of all ages enjoying the various activities from walking paths to playgrounds to interactive art installations.

Previously, when walking around Istanbul, I experienced jealousy at seeing the number of parks with adult exercise equipment installed.  This sort of acknowledgement that adults enjoy playing outdoors as much as children seemed lacking in parks across the United States.  Cincinnati’s park showed me that inviting adults to play outside is embraced in some parts of our country.

Pittsburgh has kayak and bike rentals for adults to play outside.  The walking trails, Fountain at the Point, and Watersteps attract people to enjoy the outdoors and the rivers.  However, if this swing proposal pans out, Pittsburgh may move up into the next tier of engaging outdoor spaces with the introduction of free play equipment for adults on par with Cincinnati and Istanbul.

Wheeling Suspension Bridge

Wheeling Bridge - straight on

I had a blast with the Wheeling Suspension Bridge.  First, I was fascinated by how it was squeezed between the buildings on the mainland side.  Second, as an early suspension bridge, it has many parts to ensure that it would stay up, which provided more than the average opportunity to attempt to be artistic in photographing it.

Artsy shot 1

Artsy shot 2

Artsy shot 3

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge was the largest suspension bridge in the world when it was built.  Charles Ellet won the competition to design the bridge over John Roebling.  There are some similarities in style between this bridge and Roebling’s Brooklyn Bridge with the stone piers and suspension ropes.  Before we walked across this one and read the plaque, we were under the impression that it was a Roebling.

Wheeling Bridge.jpg

To continue my discussion with the riverfront uses by the bridges I walk, Wheeling has two different trends than those found in Stuebenville.  On one side of the river (island side), is riverfront housing of surprisingly old construction.  On the other side (city side), is a modern riverfront park with bike trail.

Riverfront homes

Riverfront park

Market St, Steubenville

 

Market St Bridge

On a road trip this summer, one of the goals was to search out and walk interesting bridges.  The first bridge we stopped at was an unplanned eye-catcher.  We went to Steubenville in order to drive across the iconic Veteran’s Memorial Bridge.  Heading south from that bridge, our eyes were caught by this one.  So we took an unscheduled stop to walk across.

This is the Market Street Bridge in Steubenville, OH.  The best part about this bridge was that it marked the first time I walked across a state line by bridge.

West Virginia sign

The other thing that fascinated me while walking this bridge was the uses on along the river.  On the West Virginia side, it was all wilderness at the end of the bridge, but further downriver an active mill could be seen.

Mill view

On the Ohio side, the feature river-side uses were the sewage treatment plant and the jail.

Sewage Plant view

Jail view

The innocent looking brick building is the Jefferson County Justice Center and Jail.  While I can image the sewage plant was probably a long standing use on the river side, the jail appears to be of more recent construction.  After a short internet search, I wasn’t able to find the date of construction of this building, but did find out that this was the third jail.  The second jail was built around 1950 and converted to offices when this building was constructed.  If I were to hazard a guess, I would say this third jail was probably built around the time that the Allegheny County Jail was built on riverside property in the Pittsburgh, PA.  That jail opened in 1995.

I find it fascinating that riverfront property has been used more than once to locate a jail.  Historically, industry settled along the rivers because that was either its main transportation or power source.  Recently, cities have been taking strides to reclaim their riverfront properties as economic boosters in the form of parks and entertainment venues or housing.  In both these scenarios, the uses are placed on the rivers due to the greater economic benefit to be gained from the interaction between the use and the river.  Placing a jail on a river seems contradictory to the view of rivers as the heart of a city’s economy (previously industrially based, now tourist based).

However, the rivers may confer a benefit of another sort to the use of the property as a jail.  When I was recently confined to a hospital room for a week, the sight of the small sliver of river that I could see from my window went a long way toward helping me stay sane.  It also prompted some more contemplation about the siting of hospitals in a way I had never considered before.  The view I had of the river was beyond a sea of parking associated with the hospital and partially blocked by the buildings for a water treatment facility.  There was little of interest to see in the immediate vicinity.  I hope that in the case of the jails, the river view windows are for rooms and the non-river view windows are for offices and/or back-of-house operations.