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Fort Duquesne Bridge

Fort Duquesne Bridge

Fort Duquesne Bridge carries Interstate 279 over the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


The first fixed crossing of the Allegheny River between Pittsburgh’s downtown and the North Side was Union Bridge, a covered Burr arch truss that was completed in 1875. 1 It only offered 40 feet of vertical clearance for boats and was considered a major impedance to river traffic that led the Secretary of War to order all bridges on the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela rivers to be raised or replaced. Union Bridge was demolished in 1907 after it was damaged in a major flood. 2

Its replacement, the Manchester Bridge, was constructed between 1911-15 3 and opened by Mayor Joseph G. Armstrong on August 8, 1915. 4 It was named for the Manchester neighborhood on the North Side. The distinctive Pratt through truss closed to traffic on October 17, 1969, when its successor opened that same day. While efforts were made to preserve the structure as a whole, the decision was made to remove the bridge as it stood in the way of the construction of the new Point State Park. The portal sculptures by Charles Keck were salvaged and intended to be installed on a pier for display, but they were instead placed in storage at the old post office. 6

An attempt was made to remove the south span of Manchester Bridge with explosives on September 28, 1970, but eight of the charges failed to detonate. 5 Another attempt was made on September 29, 1970, which was successful. The north span of the crossing was removed with explosives on October 28.

Fort Duquesne Bridge

The construction of a new bridge to replace the increasingly overburdened Manchester Bridge came in the late 1940s as part of Pittsburgh’s Renaissance I initiative which would link the proposed Penn-Lincoln Parkway south of Mount Washington to the North Shore across a bridge over the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers. 7 8

Work began on the construction of the Fort Duquesne Bridge in October 1958. 13 14 A contract for $1,957,021 was awarded by the State Highways Department to the Dravo Corporation for the construction of piers and two concrete retaining walls. Substructure work was completed in August 1959, four months ahead of schedule. 15 The American Bridge Company began work on the superstructure in May 1960 16 and the main span and south approach were completed in 1963. 9

The new Fort Duquesne Bridge was nicknamed “The Bridge to Nowhere” because of delays in acquiring right-of-way for the northern approach ramps that were to connect to the North Shore Expressway, 12 17 issues that were identified before construction had begun on the crossing.

On December 12, 1964, Frederick Williams, a student at the University of Pittsburgh, drove his 1959 Chrysler station wagon through the bridge’s wooden barricades, raced off the end of the bridge, and landed upside down. 10 11 Williams was unhurt in the incident. After a radio station began distributing commemorative bumper stickers that read “Official Entry, Cordic & Company Bridge Leap Contest,” the city responded by barricading the bridge with concrete barriers.

Fort Duquesne Bridge finally opened to traffic on October 17, 1969, after ramps to PA Route 65 were opened to the northwest. 12 18 Ramps to PA Route 28 and the northern section of Interstate 279 were not completed until 1986 because of decades-long delays in acquiring the right-of-way of the East Street Valley Expressway (Interstate 279) and North Shore Expressway (Interstate 279 and PA Route 28). The total cost to build the river crossing and the associated ramps totaled $23 million. 17



  • State: Pennsylvania
  • Route: Interstate 279
  • Type: Steel Arch
  • Status: Active - Automobile
  • Total Length: 425 feet
  • Deck Width: 107 feet
  • Above Vertical Clearance: 14.4 feet


  1. Cridlebaugh, Bruce S. “Union Bridge 1875-1907.”, 4 Nov. 2000.
  2. The Union Bridge (1874-1907).” Brookline Connection.
  3. HAER No. PA,2-PITBU,59-.” Historic American Engineering Record, Apr. 1970.
  4. “Manchester Bridge Name For New Span.” Pittsburgh Press, 7 Aug. 1915.
  5. “Manchester Span Blasted Down.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 30 Sept. 1970.
  6. Cridlebaugh, Bruce S. “Manchester Bridge 1915-1970.”, 7 Dec. 2000.
  7. The Fort Pitt Bridge.” Brookline Connection.
  8. The Fort Pitt Tunnels.” Brookline Connection.
  9. “Bridges—Coming And Going.” Pittsburgh Press, 20 Aug. 1962.
  10. “Pittsburgh’s bridge to nowhere.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 24 Jul. 2013.
  11. “Bridge Barriers Didn’t Bar Him.” Kingsport Times-News, 13 Dec. 1964.
  12. Cridlebaugh, Bruce S. “Fort Duquesne Bridge.”, 27 Jul. 2001.
  13. “Fort Duquesne Bridge Work to Start Soon.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 23 Sept. 1958, p. 17.
  14. Eskey, Kenneth. “Ft. Duquesne Bridge Off To Mucky Start.” Pittsburgh Press, 12 Nov. 1958, p. 2.
  15. “Ft. Duquesne Bridge Substructure Ready.” Pittsburgh Press, 31 Aug. 1959, p. 2.
  16. “Begin Work On New Span.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 27 Apr. 1960, p. 19.
  17. “Shafer Hails Pa. Progress On Highways.” Gettysburg Times, 17 Oct. 1969, p. 18.
  18. Hritz, Thomas M. “Fort Duquesne Bridge (Sigh) Is Open.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 17 Oct. 1969, p. 17.

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