Heth’s Run Bridge: Redux

Heth’s Run Bridge, the first bridge I posted about in my Pittsburgh bridges project, is scheduled to be replaced by the end of next year.  The notice to proceed was expected to be issued last week with construction beginning on Sept. 24 with the installation of a temporary road around the bridge, through the zoo’s parking lot.  According to the schedule that was passed out at a community meeting at the end of August, the bridge is expected to close with all car traffic being diverted to the temporary road on Nov. 1st.  Due to the turning radius constraints with the temporary road, trucks will not be permitted and will instead be by way of the Highland Park Bridge, Route 28 and the 62nd Street Bridge.  If all goes according to schedule the bridge should reopen to all traffic on October 1, 2014.  Additional road work will continue through October.  After final inspections, the project is expected to be officially completed by December 8, 2014.

Heth's Run Bridge's hazardous sidewalk

This is a PennDOT project expected to cost over $18.5 million and is definitely needed.  As I discuss in my Heth’s Run Bridge Part II and Highland Park Bridge posts, the sidewalks here are in desperate need of repair and the proportion of sidewalk to road across the bridge is at least 50 years out of date.  All this is going to be addressed in the reconstruction.  The new bridge is going to have two lanes in each direction to match the roadway on either end.  Additional features of the new bridge will be decorative railing, period lighting, entrance pylons, and “architectural features on the abutments with form liners” (which I believe refers to new urns).  At the community meeting, it was mentioned that the current urns will be saved and kept in a warehouse until a new home is found for them.

In addition to the bridge, about 870 feet of Butler Street are going to be reconstructed including sidewalks.  My understanding is that this is the part of Butler from the Heth’s Run Bridge to the ramps of the Highland Park Bridge, which should take care of my complaints about the condition of the sidewalk for those of us trying to cross the Highland Park Bridge without a car.  This should also clear up the confusion for the outbound traffic of whether this part of the road is one lane or two as the plans include removing the “kink” from the existing alignment.

New signals and ADA ramps will be installed at the intersections of Butler with One Wild Place and with Baker Streets.

Another major part of the project is the excavation under the bridge to an elevation of 762.  According to GoogleEarth, the bridge is at an elevation of 800 ft. I’m not sure if this will restore the bridge to its exact historic height, but it will be close (see the photo of the previous bridge from 1912).  This will also pave the way for connecting this area to the proposed Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard project.

This project will no doubt cause some inconveniences during the construction process, but the construction of the temporary road will significantly cut down on this even though it adds over a month to the process.  Imagine instead, everyone having to go on the truck detour or all the Zoo traffic coming down Morningside Ave and Baker Street instead of One Wild Place and Butler Street.  That would be a true nightmare.  Thank you, PennDOT and the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium for the temporary road.  Thank you, PennDOT and any other funders, Sen. Jim Ferlo, Rep. Dom Costa, and anyone else who had a hand in helping bring about this long overdue project.

I can’t wait to walk over the new bridge when it’s finished!

More information about the project including the design of the temporary road can be found here: http://morningside-pa.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/hethsrunbridge.pdf

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The Point…of Gathering

A renewed downtown Pittsburgh attraction is a great place on a hot day.  With last weekend’s temperatures reaching near 90, the revitalized Fountain on the point of Point State Park was a popular place to be.

The Fountain

The new “wading” portion of the fountain was enjoyed by families, friends, couples, and pets.

Bathers

Families and Pets

Pittsburghers and Icons

The fountain was also a gathering point for bikers enjoying the Three Rivers Heritage Trail System and Pittsburgh’s bike rental program and kayakers taking advantage of Venture Outdoors’ Kayak Pittsburgh rentals.

Kayakers and Bikers enjoy the Point

The Point is one of the key geographical features that influenced the creation and history of Pittsburgh.  With the rebirth of the fountain, it will continue to be an important attraction in the city.

The Point of...

 

A Lofty Location

St. John German Evangelical Lutheran Church

This little gem in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood is full of surprises.  In the 20-some years I’ve been passing through this area, I never noticed the building.  It was brought to my attention a few years ago when I began researching adapted church buildings in Pittsburgh.  If you are in the nearby vicinity, the building blends into its surroundings.  But from other parts of the city it stands out (see 31st Street Bridge, Bloomfield Bridge, Busway Bridges: Herron Street, Busway Bridges: 28th Street).  It is also visible standing out along the ridge in the second photo in my Washington’s Crossing Bridge post.

40th Street Rise

There are two characteristics that make it stand out from a distance.  The first is its location at the highest point on 40th Street in Lawrenceville.

St John's/Choir Loft Condominiums

The second characteristic is one of the most intriguing parts of this building: the fellowship hall is at ground level and the sanctuary is above, reached by a flight of stairs.  This is the only church building I have been in where the sanctuary is a full flight of stairs above ground level.  I’m very curious to know if there are any others–please share, if you’ve come across one!

St John's Evangelical Lutheran Church Choir Loft Condominiums

The building was built in 1896-97 for the German Evangelical Lutheran St. John’s Congregation, which later became St. John’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church.  In 2002, the congregation merged with St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church and closed the doors on this location.  A real estate agent purchased the property and prepped it for conversion into 3 condominiums–one unit each for the sanctuary, fellowship hall, and parish house–before the current owners purchased the property and completed most of the rehab work creating the Choir Loft Condominiums.  (A side note that may be of interest is that the current owners considered purchasing the building that is now the Union Project but chose this one instead.)

The owner reported that the building was essentially empty for nearly 2 years before he acquired it.  The floors were in bad condition–the pews had been ripped out, tearing the sanctuary’s floor, and the choir loft’s floor was completely missing.  He said his goal in renovating the building was to “not destroy the architecture and the interior.  We wanted it to feel like a church still because it is a church.”

Having gotten a tour of the interior of the sanctuary unit, I’d say they succeeded in this goal.  The former sanctuary space is an open loft configuration with hardwood floors.  The raised steps for the altar area were kept and made into the kitchen.  The choir loft remained open and served as the bedroom.  The gorgeous stain glass windows were also intact.  While I was there on a winter evening after sunset, I loved the description of how the colored pattern from the stain glass gradually moves across the floor like a very colorful sundial.  My other favorite part was that there was still a bell in the tower, which the owner rang for me.  While inside the sound was muffled, it sounded like it could have woken sleeping neighbors.

Busway Bridges: Herron Street

Polish Hill, the neighborhood which is home to the Immaculate Heart of Mary’s Church I’ve pointed out in some posts (see 31st Street Bridge and A Sidewalk to Nowhere), has only two points of access to the lower ground along the Allegheny River.  These are the Herron Street Bridge (above) and the 28th Street Bridge (see post) which cross over the busway and parallel railroad tracks to reach Lawrenceville and The Strip District, respectively.

There are a few sites of interest from the Herron Street Bridge.  The first of which is the former Iron City Brewery site, which up until a few years ago was the oldest (and only remaining) brewery within the city limits.  It closed and the site has been vacant ever since.  This summer, it became a site of contention.  The property was purchased earlier in the year by a development company, who this summer demolished some of the buildings on the site.  The site is a designated historic landmark, but the company received permission to demolish one building that was structurally unsound.  As I read it in articles in the Post-Gazette and elsewhere, the company said that when this building was demolished others became unstable requiring immediate demolition.  The Lawrenceville Stakeholders Historic Preservation Committee petitioned the city to site the company for unauthorized demolitions.  At the end of August, the development company was fined $20,000 for the demolitions (see article).  Despite the argument over the demolitions, the company and the neighborhood are supposedly working together to come up with a plan to (re)develop the site.

Also visible from the bridge are two of Pittsburgh’s repurposed churches.  The one in the first picture is the Church Brew Works, the city’s most infamous adaptive reuse of a church building.  The one in the second picture is the Choir Loft Condominiums which have been visible from other bridges as well (see Bloomfield Bridge and 31st Street Bridge posts).

Other views from this bridge show downtown and the busway.

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.

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.

What is a Bridge? Part II

When I wrote the first “What is a Bridge?” post, I felt confident that Merriam-Webster’s definition of a bridge, “a structure carrying a pathway or roadway over a depression or obstacle,” was sufficiently explicit to exclude ramps.  However, while crossing the Penn Ave Bridge in East Liberty I found a new structure to challenge the definition of a bridge.  The former bus ramp from the former Penn Ave (Bus) Station to the (not former) East Liberty Busway Station meets the above definition of a bridge as it carries a roadway over the obstacle presented by the railroad bordering the Busway.  On the other hand it also meets the definition of a ramp, “a slope or inclined plane for joining two different levels,” as the Busway is significantly lower than most of the surrounding area.  So is it a bridge or a ramp?  It almost feels like asking is a tomato a fruit or vegetable? or perhaps even which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Are these equally impossible questions to answer or is it rather the case that there are exceptions to every rule?  There aren’t always easy or straight-forward answers.  I suppose in this case the structure is both a bridge and a ramp.

Perhaps a way to answer the question a little more specifically is to look at the way it is used.  In its previous use, the point of the structure was to get buses down onto or up out of the lower Busway level.  While it was used in this fashion, I’d say it was more a ramp than a bus.  There is a future plan for it to be turned into a pedestrian bridge to transport pedestrians safely across the railroad and Busway to the Busway station (see Busway Bridges: East Liberty post for more information).  At that point, in function the structure will be more of a bridge, though I suppose the ramp end will still function as a ramp to provide more accessible access to the station than stairs.  Whether it is a ramp or a bridge, I did not walk it yet as it is not currently designed for pedestrian access.  After its conversion is complete in the next couple years, I will come back to walk it.

To return to the Penn Ave Bridge, which is the one I did walk, as you travel west on the Busway from its beginning in Swissvale, the Penn Ave Bridge is the first of many to cross the Busway within the borders of the City of Pittsburgh.  According to a book I read recently, the valley that the Busway and the parallel railway travel through was created before the last Ice Age.  Before that time, the book explained, the Monongahela River (the “Mon”) traveled north to the region that is now Lake Erie and this valley was its route; however the ice flows during the Ice Age diverted the river into its current path toward the west where it meets the Allegheny to form the Ohio River.  The valley formed from the former riverbed of the Mon contributes to Pittsburgh’s hilly landscape and its high bridge count.  See the Taking the Long Way Round post, Busway Bridges: East Liberty post and more future posts with the header “Busway Bridges” for more on these bridges.