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.

Pittsburgh’s Bragging Rights

I mentioned previously that I totally geek out over maps.  I recently came across a fascinating “new” map called The “Z” Atlas & Map of Pittsburgh, PA, and Mount Oliver, PA.  I am adding it to the Sanborn Maps and GM Hopkins Maps as a go-to for studying the changes Pittsburgh went through in the 20th Century.  The “Z” Atlas was published in 1952.  There are two things about this map that caught my eye as setting it apart from others during my initial perusal.

First, in the street index, it identifies which streets have unusual addressing.  Pittsburgh is known for some unique addressing situations.  For example, there is a block where houses built before WWII have 1300 numbers and the ones built after WWII have 1400 numbers, even though they are intermixed.  This atlas shows that the post WWII houses were built after 1952 because the address numbers on that street weren’t wonky yet.

Second, this map claims that “Pittsburgh has more streets than any City in the World. You will find EVERY ONE of them in this ‘Z’ Atlas and Map!”

“Preposterous,” I said, when I first read that claim.  Pittsburgh’s land area is small compared to other large metropoles.  It does not make Wikipedia’s current list of the 150 largest US cities by land area.  Without digging into census data, I assume that many of the old cities (ex. New York City, Chicago, Cleveland), if not most of the 150 listed, likely were of a similar size in the 1950s as today.  How could it be possible for Pittsburgh to have more streets than these cities that are significantly larger?

Then it hit me.  It is possible by the same token that makes it possible for Pittsburgh to have more bridges than any other city in the world, more steps than any other city, and the steepest paved street in the world: topography.

Pittsburgh’s many hills, ravines, cliffs, and rivers mean there are few long streets and many short streets.  Maybe after all, Pittsburgh did have more streets than any other City in the World in 1952.  Reading more of the “Z” Atlas, it elsewhere explains that Pittsburgh had over 6,000 streets at the time of the map’s publication.  That number does include the numerous “paper” streets that were surveyed and mapped, “but never built or even marked in the dirt.”

Many of these paper streets still exist today causing headaches for the City and its citizens, but some have been vacated and turned over to private ownership.  Between that and the rise of mega-cities since the 1950s, I won’t say that Pittsburgh can still claim more streets than any other city.  A quick Google search showed that the question of what city has the most number of streets is not as well discussed as what city has the most bridges.  Perhaps a more ambitious person than myself could run an analysis to see whether Pittsburgh still has more streets than any other City in the World.  (Don’t forget to count the step streets!)

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.