Fort Pitt Bridge

Pittsburgh has the Three Sisters Bridges with the 6th, 7th, and 9th Street bridges, but I think it should also have the Twin Brothers Bridges with the Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne (see post) bridges.  The two Fort bridges look very much alike as I think my featured images for the bridges show.  The roadway connecting them across the Point further suggests a close relationship between the bridges as do the names themselves.

To be honest, I had not been looking forward to my walk across the Fort Pitt Bridge.  It carries a freeway and the southern end connects to a highway and dirt.  Last spring I was at a conference at a downtown hotel and overheard a hotel employee giving directions to some out-of-town visitors to the Duquesne Incline, which involved crossing the Fort Pitt Bridge and walking along West Carson Street.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I didn’t understand why anyone would send a tourist along that route, as you always want to show tourists the best side of a city.  If the tourists had asked me, I would have sent them across the Smithfield Street Bridge and up the Monongahela Incline.  Then I would have recommended they walk along Grandview Avenue to the observation platform by the Duquesne Incline as it provides a more iconic view of the city.

After walking the route across the Fort Pitt Bridge to the Duquesne Incline myself, I don’t feel so bad about tourists being sent on it.  It wasn’t that bad of a walk and the view from the top is one of the best in the city.

I’ve probably made it quite clear by now that I really don’t like the fenced in bridges.  (See for instance thee Busway Bridges posts for Shadyside, East Liberty, and Millvale Avenue.)  The Fort Pitt Bridge sidewalk is wide and open, though the traffic is a little loud and it might have been hard to hear if I had wanted to have a conversation with a walking buddy.  The worst part was the stretch pictured above alongside the Fort Pitt Museum.

I enjoyed the views from the bridge as I never see the city from this angle.  It certainly does not present the most exciting view of the downtown buildings, but that was one of my goals with this project—to see all the views of downtown.

While crossing the bridge, I realized that I never spend any time on the Monongahela side of the Point.  I’m not sure why, but I always end up on the Allegheny side (or at the tip of the Point before it was under construction) when I come to the park.  This made me realize I really need to explore Point State Park more as the Monongahela side looks quite pleasant.

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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

Birmingham Bridge (see post and post)

Monongahela Connecting Railroad Bridge (see post)

Hot Metal Bridge (see post)

Glenwood Bridge

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.

Bloomfield Bridge

The Bloomfield Bridge towers over much of the surrounding areas thanks to the unique geography of Pittsburgh.  As I discussed in Pedestrian Bridges: Bigelow Boulevard, the Bloomfield Bridge is an a location that could lend itself to higher pedestrian traffic than some of the bridges I’ve walked because of its close proximity to a grocery store and a drug store on one side and residences on the other.  However, the accessibility for the residents is limited and not inviting.  Car traffic on the bridge and on Bigelow Blvd tend to have higher speeds, particularly as Bigelow Blvd is used like an expressway to get from one part of town to another.

Despite the issues of limited accessibility and the non-pedestrian friendliness of the bridge, it was worth the walk across for the various views of the city available from this bridge.  As I mention in my introductory post about my plan to walk Pittsburgh’s bridges, what I was already enjoying about the project was the various views of the city from the beautiful to the industrial and developing a greater awareness and appreciation for the varied geography of the city.  The Bloomfield Bridge covers both of these ideas.

I refer to the Bloomfield Bridge in the introductory post linked above because of the “underbelly”-like view it still provides of Pittsburgh.  While much of the city is being shined and cleaned up–such as downtown and East Liberty–there are still places of what I like to call the nitty-gritty of Pittsburgh.  The Bloomfield Bridge shows one of these areas along the busway.  I’m not sure how all the buildings lined up in the picture above are used, but I believe at least some are junk yards for cars.  I believe the smoke stack in the distance at the end of the line buildings is for the former Iron City Brewery site, which I will talk about more in the post on the Polish Hill bridges.

This view off of the other side of the bridge helps illustrate the extreme changes in geography around the Bloomfield Bridge from the rise on which West Penn Hospital sits (this photo) to the gully where the busway runs (photo above).  I think that the Bloomfield Bridge may offer one of the most open views in the city.  Like the view from the pedestrian bridge across Bigelow, the view east from the Bloomfield Bridge stretches past Bloomfield to East Liberty, Shadyside and beyond.

The view west of the bridge also reaches far: beyond the busway out over the rooftops of the warehouses and factories of The Strip District to the 31st Street Bridge (see post), the Herr’s Island development (see post) and the hills beyond.  There are not many places in Pittsburgh where the view stretches so far in multiple directions.

Part of the neighborhood of Bloomfield continues west of the Bloomfield Bridge.  Just a few blocks from the bridge is Woolslair Elementary School behind which is the Choir Loft Condominiums (formerly a German Evangelical Church).  I pointed out this church in my 31st Street Bridge post.  I explained in my first post about this blog that my current themes in walking are bridges and the adaptive reuse of churches.  This summer I focused mostly on the bridges as I set myself the goal of walking as many of Pittsburgh bridges as I could.  This fall I plan to shift the focus more toward the adaptive reuse of churches, though I will still continue to walk bridges as well.  Once I shift my emphasis, the Choir Loft Condominiums will be among the first adapted churches in Pittsburgh I will discuss.

Pedestrian Bridges: Bigelow Blvd

There is a pedestrian bridge across Bigelow Boulevard at the Bloomfield Bridge.  I walked this bridge before I started this blog and didn’t think to take a picture of the bridge itself.  Its appearance is similar to the Graham Street Pedestrian Bridge (see post) except that the fencing doesn’t connect overhead and does continue along the stairs.

The picture above is from the Bigelow pedestrian bridge looking out over Pittsburgh’s East End.  The large brownish building on the left is West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield.  In the middle of the frame are two white points standing above the other buildings.  These are the steeple of East Liberty Presbyterian Church on the left and the Highland Building, also in East Liberty and designed by Daniel Burnham, on the right.

When I saw this symbol on the pedestrian bridge, I stopped to consider it.  This was the first time I had ever seen this symbol.  I thought whoever put it on this bridge had a very good point.  The only way to access the Bloomfield Bridge from Oakland and the uphill side of Bigelow Boulevard is by the pedestrian bridge, which is only accessible by a set of stairs on either side.  As such anyone with a mobility disability is barred from using the Bloomfield Bridge as a pedestrian.  The way the intersection of the bridge and the boulevard is set up now, it would not be safe for any pedestrian to attempt to cross the streets, let alone one with a disability.  This is a unequal and limiting situation.  There is a grocery store across from the other end of the bridge and a drug store and restaurants within another block.  Up the hill from this side of the bridge is a residential area.  The other end of the Bloomfield Bridge is the residents closest area for essentials found at grocery and drug stores as well as entertainment found at restaurants and bars.  It would be highly convenient for the residents on the hill to be able to walk to this area; however the current situation limits who is able to use this resource.  (Not to mention the ugliness of the bridge and the intersection which probably discourages many people from even considering the short walk across the Bloomfield Bridge.)

The second time I saw this graffiti symbol was on the 16th Street Bridge (see post).  I could not figure out what statement, if any, the 16th Street Bridge one was trying to communicate.  As far as I could tell, that bridge is accessible to any pedestrian with or without mobility issues.  At least there are no stairs to contend with at either end.

Busway Bridges: Shadyside

The Negley Avenue and Aiken Avenue bridges connect the sections of Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood divided by the busway.  Both were originally built in the 1920s and renovated in the 1970s.  There were at least two previous bridges at Aiken (see 1909 and 1924 photos).  I did not find any images of an earlier bridge on Negley, but there are images of the bridge from 1924 (the year it was built) and from 1965.

Today, these bridges share the feature of the mesh fence protecting the pedestrians from the edge.  The width of the sidewalk on the Aiken Bridge is wide enough to reduce any feelings of being caged in, but on the Negley bridge, the metal girder on one side and the fence on the other enhance the caged feeling for pedestrians.

These bridges are two blocks apart, but because the busway curves they are not visible to each other.  Both do see the Graham Street pedestrian bridge (see post).

This space between the Negley and Aiken bridges is mostly residential.  Next to the Negley Bridge is a condo complex while single family homes line the busway near Aiken Avenue.  On the other sides of the bridges, the area turns more industrial.  The industrial area east of Negley is denser than that west of Aiken.

Pedestrian Bridges: Bates Street

The trail bridge over Bates Street, which opened in 2011, is the second newest bridge in Pittsburgh.  The newest is the pedestrian bridge in East Liberty (see Taking the Long Way Round post).  The East Liberty bridge was a completely new bridge, whereas there was a trail bridge over Bates Street before.  This bridge carries the Eliza Furnace Trail.  This trail is part of the larger Three Rivers Heritage Trail.  I believe that this is the only bridge over a road along the Three Rivers Trail system.  There is a converted railroad bridge that carries the trial over part of the Allegheny River (see July 15 post).  The Hot Metal (Aug 9 post), Smithfield Street and Fort Duquesne (June 19 post) bridges are also considered part of the trail system according to the trail map.

As I mentioned in the Birmingham Bridge post, the part of the Three Rivers Trail system that travels on the northern side of the Monongahela is not a very pleasant stretch.  This area around the Bates Street Bridge is one of the worst sections.  The trail is caught between a freeway and the high traffic, through way of Second Avenue.  There is no vegetation or anything else to act as barriers to the noise of the traffic on these two roads and to the sun on a hot day.

Further away from town (in the direction the picture above looks), the trail improves some as it comes to an elevation between that of the freeway and Second Avenue and there is more space between the trail and the roads.  I’ve traveled on this trail toward town only once or twice, so I don’t remember specifics about it.  I do remember that it does continue to lean toward being unpleasant.  The times I traveled on it, I was biking.  From that experience I know I would never choose to walk it.  On a bike, you go fast enough to ignore much of the harshness of the trail, but walking you would be forced to take it all in.

Perhaps the biggest problem with this part of the trail system is that it doesn’t approach anywhere near the river.  This is a significant flaw for a trail considered part of a river trail system.  At the Bates Street Bridge, the trail is separated from the Monongahela River by Second Avenue and the office/technology park I reference in the Birmingham Bridge post.

One of my original fascinations with my walking bridge project was the different views of the city captured from the various bridges.  The Bates Street Bridge adds to the views of downtown I’ve collected so far:

Busway Bridges: Millvale Avenue

When I crossed the Millvale Avenue Bridge over the busway, I was thinking a lot about the “caged” aspect of many of Pittsburgh’s bridges.  I wrote about this idea in my Highland Park Bridge, Taking the Long Way Round, and Busway Bridges: East Liberty posts.  While a lot of bridges in Pittsburgh have the mess fencing, which often makes me as a pedestrian feel caged in, there are several that do not.  As I prepared to cross this bridge I wondered why that is.

I wondered if perhaps it was to prevent people from jumping off the bridges.  This theory did not make sense though.  First, if that is the case shouldn’t all the bridges have the fences?  One of the times I crossed the Birmingham Bridge, I witnessed a scene that I believe was a group of people working to dissuade a jumper.  The Birmingham Bridge is one of the bridges without a fence.  The second reason this theory doesn’t fit is that on the Millvale Bridge, the fencing is only along part of it.  There is a significant stretch not fenced with a big drop.  The part that is fenced is the stretch over the railroad tracks and the busway.

My next ideas were that perhaps the fences are meant to stop litter from blowing off the bridge and onto the tracks/road/river below or to stop people from throwing things over the bridge.  Again, these don’t make sense.  Litter can blow in from any direction and could blow over the fence.  There is also a parking lot under the Millvale Bridge, so if the concern is about people tossing things over the bridge, why isn’t the fence extended to protect the cars in the lot?

I mention in Busway Bridges: Baum-Centre Corridor that most of the bridges across the busway between Penn Avenue and the Bloomfield Bridge are ugly and unpleasant.  Millvale Avenue Bridge is mostly exempted from this.  The design of the bridge is more aesthetically pleasing than the concrete of the Baum and Centre bridges and the rusty metal of the Highland and Negley bridges.  The area surrounding this bridge is also more residential and less used than the commercial arteries of Baum and Centre.

I thought the aesthetic difference might be explained by the years in which the bridges were built, but that is not the case.  The Highland, Negley, Aiken, Baum, and Millvale bridges across the busway were built in the 1910s or 1920s.  They were all reconstructed while the Penn, Centre, and Bloomfield bridges were all built in the 1960s, ’70s, or ’80s.  The Negley and Aiken bridges also connect with residential areas, so the land use around the bridge cannot explain the slightly different and better design of the Millvale Bridge.