The George C. Platt Bridge carries PA Route 291 / Penrose Avenue over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In the early 18th century, a ferry operated over the Schuylkill River between Girard Point and Elmwood which was later named Penrose Ferry after the ferryman Samuel Penrose. 1 Traffic began to overwhelm the ferry as the city continued to grow south and west along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, and on April 7, 1853, the state legislature approved of a fixed crossing at Penrose Avenue. The proposal was mired in legal issues because of its low clearance of six feet above the normal pool which would prevent ships from navigating the Schuylkill. The Penrose Ferry Bridge was eventually constructed but it washed out within a year.
A second bridge over the Schuylkill was opened on June 30, 1860, but it was condemned after a portion of it collapsed on July 7, 1876. 1 In 1878, a 416-foot-long double intersection Warren truss bridge was constructed that included a rotating pivot pier that created two 183-foot-wide navigation channels. The iron superstructure was replaced with steel in 1900.
Penrose Avenue Bridge Replacement
In May 1930, the city’s Public Works Department proposed the construction of a 2,711-foot tunnel to carry Penrose Avenue under the Schuylkill River to provide direct access between the central part of the city and the planned Municipal Airport on Hog Island (today’s Philadelphia International Airport). 6 The $14 million project would have involved boring twin two-lane tubes 87 feet under the river but it never made it past the planning phases because of a lack of funding.
By 1938, the Penrose Avenue tunnel proposal had been replaced with a 7,000-foot, single tube, four-lane tunnel underneath the Delaware River between Tincum Island Road and Paulsboro, New Jersey. 7 8 The new plan proved controversial from the beginning as the city of Philadelphia contended that it would be a hazard to the airport. 8
On March 29, 1947, the Cantigny, a 500-foot tanker, crashed into the Penrose Ferry Bridge and knocking the movable center span open. 11
Bids for the crossing’s replacement were opened on April 29, 1949. 12 Designed by Modjeski & Masters of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, the federally-financed $13.7 million crossing included a three-span cantilever truss and 65 plate girder spans. 10 12 It was dedicated and opened to traffic by Governor John S. Fine, Philadelphia Mayor Bernard Samuel, and other officials on September 12, 1951. 10 The 7,799-foot-long span was the largest ever constructed by the state. 9 10 It also boasted the world’s longest continuous aluminum railings that were fabricated by Alcoa. 9
A steel dividing barrier was installed in 1967 to separate the opposing traffic lanes because of numerous head-on collisions on the bridge. 2 In 1979, the Penrose Avenue Bridge was renamed to honor Civil War hero George Crawford Pratt. 3
The Pratt Bridge was rehabilitated in 1984 and again between 2011-2014. 4 In June 2011, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation embarked on a $42.8 million restoration project which involved repairing structural steel, replacing expansion joints, painting the steel superstructure, resurfacing the concrete approach spans, and repairing the piers, among other miscellaneous items. The project concluded in June 2014. 5
- State: Pennsylvania
- Route: PA Route 291
- Type: Warren Through Truss
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 8,730 feet
- Main Span Length: 680 feet
- Deck Width: 48 feet
- Above Vertical Clearance: 17.5 feet
- Navigational Clearance:
- “Lost Bridge of the Week– January 18th.” Philaphilia, 18 Jan. 2012.
- Performance by Jay Cook, WFIL, 1967.
- “GEORGE C. PLATT MEMORIAL BRIDGE – OFFICIAL DESIGNATION.” Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
- “Lane Closures and Traffic Stoppages Saturday and Sunday on Bartram Avenue at Route 291 (Penrose Avenue) Overpass in Philadelphia.” Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, 9 Jun. 2011.
- Mccormick, Annie. “Platt Bridge closing for final phase of construction.” WPIV, 6 Jun. 2014.
- Wiegand, Harold J. “City Plans Tunnel Under Schuylkill to Hog Island Site.” Philadelphia Inquirer, 15 May 1930, pp. 1-4.
- “Plan of Air, Rail, Marine Terminal (Hog Island), Philadelphia, June 15, 1940. Bureau of Engineering, Surveys and Zoning, Philadelphia. , 1940.” Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network.
- “Mayor Wilson Objects to Tunnel Linking Philadelphia and Camden.” Morning Call [Allentown], 11 Aug. 1938, p. 1.
- Russell, W. L. “New Bridge Uses Much Aluminum.” Pittsburgh Press, 19 Nov. 1951, p. 34.
- “Penrose Avenue Bridge Opened in Philadelphia.” Morning Call [Allentown], 13 Sept. 1951, p. 19.
- “Tanker Disables Bridge in Philadelphia.” Evening Sun [Hanover], 29 Mar. 1947, p. 4.
- “Bids to be Opened for Penrose Bridge.” Philadelphia Inquirer, 7 Apr. 1949, p. 9.