Big Dam Bridge

Big Dam Bridge signThe name says it all. This bridge was built as the longest pedestrian- and bicycle-built bridge in the country spanning 4,226 feet across the Arkansas River, connecting Little Rock and North Little Rock. It is part of the Arkansas River Trail.

Big Dam Bridge

On a trip to Arkansas this winter, I discovered this bridge and naturally had to add it to my list of bridges I’ve walked across. The intention of my trip to Arkansas was to visit friends but also to get a break from the cold northern winter by heading south. When I bought my tickets in January, the Little Rock region was having 60 degree weather. A month later when I arrived, the high was 26.

View of Pinnacle Mountain from the Big Dam Bridge

View of Pinnacle Mountain from the Big Dam Bridge

View toward downtown Little Rock showing Rebsaman Park

View toward downtown Little Rock showing Rebsaman Park

By the time we reached the half-way point of the bridge, we were frozen stiff. The farther we got on the bridge the stronger the wind got, probably creating a wind chill factor closer to 20 degrees or less. After admiring the views from the midpoint for a minute, the cold and wind forced us to turn back toward the car.On the Big Dam Bridge

Top 10 Bridge Travel SitesWhile I didn’t make it all the way across, I can still say I’ve been on one of the Top 10 Bridge Travel Sites in the US. Now I just have to find the other 9 sites.

Pedestrian Bridges: Chicago

BP Bridge

There are two pedestrian bridges connecting to Millennium Park in Chicago.  The first I encountered was the BP Bridge.  I admired the undulating silver sculpture above as I walked past and was thrilled to discover it was a pedestrian bridge.  My excited was quickly crushed as the bridge was closed to traffic due to construction at the other end.  I realized that I have become quite addicted to bridge-walking.  I was on my way to see The Bean before renting a bike to ride along the lake, when seeing this bridge completely sidetracked me.  I had a desperate urge to walk a bridge.  Fortunately, there was another pedestrian bridge nearby and while it was not nearly as enticing, it had some interesting parts.

BP Bridge The Nichols Bridgeway

The Nichols Bridgeway connects Millennium Park with the Art Institute of Chicago.  Both ends had space-age-like toughs, which I assumed were supposed to be a fancy drainage system.  If their purpose is a drainage system, the upper end by the Institute has failed and been turned into a wishing well.

Lower Trough Upper Trough/Wishing Well

The part I liked best about this bridge was that while it looked like the surface was level, there were ridges or “speed-bumps” every few feet.  I wondered if these were merely artistic or if they had a functional value like reducing the slipperiness of the bridge during icy conditions.

Bumpy Walkway The Nichols Bridgeway

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.

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:

Hot Metal Bridge

After walking the Hot Metal Bridge, I realized that it is really three separate bridges.  One of the bridges is the bike/pedestrian bridge pictured above that crosses over Second Avenue.  The other two are in the background of the image above–one carries all vehicular traffic while the other carries all pedestrians and bicycles.  The bridge pictured above is not structurally connected with either of the other bridges.  The two bridges that span the Monongahela River were built at different times.  While at this end (north) the bridges are at the same level, they are at two different elevations on the other side of the river.

The Hot Metal Bridge is one of the more locally famous and popular bridges in the city.  In my experience of participating in and overhearing people’s conversations locally about Pittsburgh bridges, the Hot Metal and Smithfield Street bridges are the two that come up the most as fun to use and interesting.  In the case of the Hot Metal Bridge, this is perhaps because it used to be a set of railroad bridges which have now been converted.  They were built and used by the Jones & Laughlin Company to connect its sites on opposites of the river.  The name of the bridge (Hot Metal) came from the fact that the trains were carrying molten metal from one factory to another.  There are, or at least there were, placards along Water Street along the South Side Works that describe the history of the J&L steel company on this site and on the bridge.  I don’t know if they are still up as there is currently construction going on in this area.

According to the description attached to the oldest image of the bridge on Historic Pittsburgh, the bridge was built in 1887.  This image, as well as PGHbridges.com’s page for the bridge, identifies the names of the two structures as the Monongahela Connecting Railroad Bridge (now the vehicular bridge) and the Hot Metal Bridge (now the pedestrian bridge).  The G.M. Hopkins maps tell a slightly different story.  As early as 1882, the maps show a bridge at this location.  That map and the 1889 map identify the bridge as the East End Bridge.  All the maps from 1890 through 1923 of this site call it the Jones & Laughlins Bridge.  Up until 1904, the bridge is depicted as carrying a single track, which I assume would be the bridge that is now the pedestrian bridge.  Starting in 1910, the bridge is depicted with three railroad tracks, meaning the current vehicular bridge was added in that time.

It is amazing to me that as late as 1998 this part of the city was still dominated by steel mill buildings as illustrated by this photo.  I suppose this means that I did not come to this part of the city then.  As the South Side Works mall did not exist yet, I guess there was no reason for me to come over here.  According to PGHbridges.com, the conversion of the bridges began in 1998, but the larger of the two bridges didn’t open until 2000 while the pedestrian bridge opened in 2007.

My final comment on this bridge is that there is a nice view of downtown from here, although the buildings don’t form any interesting patterns and clusters like they did in the views from the Allegheny River bridges (see 16th Street Bridge post for an example of this).

Pedestrian Bridges: Shadyside

When the pedestrian bridge I discuss in “Taking the Long Way Round” was in the process of being built, I was thinking it was the first pedestrian bridge in Pittsburgh.  When I started my project of walking the bridges in Pittsburgh, I realized what a ridiculous thought that was.  Pittsburgh has many pedestrian bridges, but until the new one was built, I never heard anyone talk about any pedestrian bridge in the city.  Many of these pedestrian bridges are not particularly attractive and are not in high traffic areas.

Shadyside has one of these hidden pedestrian bridges.  The bridge connects Graham Street across the busway and railroad tracks.  The only reason I know about this bridge is from riding buses on the busway.  Walking down Graham from Centre Ave (a busy corridor lined with businesses, churches and a hospital and used by several major bus routes and lots of cars), I was impressed how quiet and peaceful the residential area between Centre and the busway was.  That is until a train comes by.

As I walked across this bridge, I wondered why it was there.  There is a vehicular bridge with sidewalks on both sides across the busway a block in either direction.  There are eight other roads between this bridge and the Penn Ave Bridge that end at the busway and have neither a vehicular or pedestrian bridge connecting them to the other side of the busway.  In my walk, I speculated that perhaps it was put in to connect the residents on the north side of the busway to places of work on the southern.  This was based on the fact that there was a large building on the southern side that now houses the Shadyside Boys and Girls Club (photo below).

When I got home I went to PGHbridges.com, which I have used whenever I’ve had questions like this about the origin or design of Pittsburgh bridges.  However, for some reason this website ignores many of the bridges over the busway.  In looking up some of the bridges that PGHbridges.com misses, I found several other bridge websites that list and identify many of the bridges in the city, but none of them include the Graham Street Bridge, not even the National Bridge Inventory Database.

So I turned back to my favorite resource–the G.M. Hopkins maps.  I also went to the image collection on Historic Pittsburgh, the parent site for the Hopkins maps.  In the image collection I found one photo from 1908 of the bridge under construction.  The 1904 and 1911 maps show the area immediately adjacent to the bridge as all residential.  The building that is now the Boys and Girls Club does not exist.  All I’m left with is speculation at this point.  However, there is a school a few blocks from the southern end of the bridge and in between 1904 and 1911 another church was built a couple blocks north of the bridge.  There already was a large church a block from the site of the newer, smaller one.  Perhaps, the bridge was built to facilitate school students and church goers to get to their respective destinations.

Based on the way the bridge is depicted on the 1911 map and the 1939 map, I suspect the bridge may have been rebuilt since 1908.  At the very least the stairs were replaced.  The southern steps are drawn as coming straight out from the bridge to the road, but today the stairs are perpendicular to the line of the bridge and Graham Street.  The northern steps are drawn perpendicular to the bridge and facing the same direction the southern steps face today.  However, the steps I walked are switchback style, with the upper portion facing the opposite direction depicted on the 1939 map.

Millennium Bridge

The Millennium Bridge is the first of two pedestrian bridges that cross the Thames.  The second, the Jubilee Bridge (click to see post), opened 3 years later in 2003.  While the Millennium Bridge is sadly only one color, I think it was probably the most photogenic bridge I walked in London.  Although I like the picture above less for the bridge and more for the buildings behind it, which show the city’s transition from a time when church steeples were the tallest thing around to today when that honor belongs to the skyscrapers.

The location of the bridge was very good.  It leads directly to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  In some ways I am surprised that it wasn’t until 2000 that a bridge was built at this location.  (I picked up some souvenir maps while in London depicting the city in 1520, 1666, 1843 and 1902 and none have a bridge or even ferry boat at this location.)  On the other hand, the other side of the bridge connects to the Tate Modern, which didn’t open as the international modern and contemporary art museum until 2000.  Before then the site was a power plant from 1947 until 1981 when it became redundant and closed, remaining vacant until the Tate took it.

The views from the Millennium Bridge show two things of interest related to the other city bridges.  First, upriver is a view of the first rail station to span the Thames and the longest solar bridge in the world (see July 31 post).  Downriver, the Tower Bridge, which I believe is the most iconic London bridge, comes into view for the first time.

 

I started this post by claiming that the Millennium Bridge was the most photogenic of the London bridges.  The views of it above are pretty interesting, but the best shot was the one I took from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral looking down.