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Birmingham Bridge’s Complicated History

Birmingham Bridge

The Birmingham Bridge has a complicated history in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Until 1896, the South Side of Pittsburgh had one fixed crossing to the central part of the city, a tolled covered bridge, which led to the opening of the Brady Street Bridge in 1896. It was notable for being the second river crossing owned by the city as well as the first toll-free river crossing in the area.

Because of heavy usage from trucks and trolleys, the Brady Street Bridge was showing its age by the 1960s. The crossing was closed to all traffic because of structural deficiencies in September 1968 and reopened after significant repairs in October 1969. It closed permanently on May 1, 1976, and was detonated into the Monongahela River at 8:42 PM on May 29, 1978.

Planning for a replacement for the deteriorating Brady Street Bridge began in the early 1960s Highway plans at that time showed a variety of proposed expressways and freeways crisscrossing the region, including the Oakland Expressway that would have connected PA Route 28 north of Herrs Island along the Allegheny River to new suburban routes along the Monongahela River further south.

Construction of the new bridge was set to begin in 1969 but the city’s inaction on deciding on how to interchange the new crossing with local streets caused the project to be delayed by a decade. Just the new bridge’s piers stood alongside the circa 1896 structure for years, a reminder that Pittsburgh had yet another “bridge to nowhere.” Construction finally resumed in 1974 but work was delayed because of defective electro-slag welds that needed to be shored up with heavy steel plates.

Finally, the new Birmingham Bridge, named after Birmingham, England, opened in December 1977.

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