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.

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.