The Point Bridges In Pittsburgh

point bridge pittsburgh

A Historic Perspective of The Point Bridges In Pittsburgh

Throughout the course of its history, the city of Pittsburgh has seen an evolution in its infrastructure, notably in its bridge construction. The Point Bridges in Pittsburgh were a significant part of the City’s early growth and transportation, and ultimately led to the construction of the modern bridges over the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers today.

Jones Ferry: The Beginning

Before the construction of Point Bridge I, Jones Ferry served as a primary means of crossing the Monongahela River. This ferry system, established by Ephraim Jones in the late 1700s, was a prominent enterprise in Pittsburgh for nearly a century.

The Jones Ferry initially operated only during daylight hours, transporting passengers, horses, and wagons from the West End to a platform at Ferry Street. The ferry was powered by poles and oars, with skiffs for passengers and flat boats for transporting horses and wagons.

In 1835, the flat boats were replaced with horse boats, powered by blind horses tramping on a horizontal wheel. A decade later, steam-powered boats were introduced to the ferry system. Interestingly, Ephraim Jones was also known for mining coal on Coal Hill (Mount Washington) and was the first to use barges to ship coal down the Ohio River.

Point Bridge I: The First Major Bridge

point bridge pittsburgh

In 1874, the proposal for a bridge to span the Monongahela River was put forth. This led to the formation of the Point Bridge Company which was tasked with designing and constructing the span. Charles Davis, a renowned bridge engineer, was brought on board for this purpose.

The Point Bridge, also known as Point Bridge I, was a stiffened chain suspension span, consisting of four wrought-iron towers. The total length of the bridge was 1,090 feet, with a middle span of 800 feet between the towers, and a side span of 145 feet at each shore.

The Point Bridge was opened to traffic on March 31, 1877. The bridge was seen as a technological masterpiece of its time, boasting four quasi-Egyptian towers as anchor piers. Despite facing maintenance issues and being deemed inadequate for handling growing traffic load, the bridge served the city for nearly fifty years.

Point Bridge II: The Second Landmark Bridge

point bridge pittsburgh

By the early 1920s, it was clear that the Point Bridge I was no longer capable of handling the evolving needs of the city’s transportation. As a result, plans for a newer, stronger bridge, often referred to as Point Bridge II, were put into motion.

The construction of Point Bridge II began in April 1925. The bridge design was a cantilever arch-truss span, a hybrid design which was chosen to meet the War Department’s mandate for a seventy-foot clearance above water level.

The new bridge opened to traffic on June 20, 1927. It was able to accommodate four lanes of traffic and two sidewalks, making it more suitable for the increasing traffic demands of the city. However, as critics highlighted, the Point Bridge II would also become obsolete in less than thirty years due to the continuous rise in traffic and the advancement of the city’s development projects.

The Fort Pitt Bridge: A Modern Replacement

Fort Pitt Bridge

The final replacement for the Point Bridges in Pittsburgh came in the form of the modern Fort Pitt Bridge. Opened in 1959, this bridge replaced the Point Bridge II after only thirty-two years of service.

The Fort Pitt Bridge was designed to accommodate the increasing motor traffic to the West End and South Hills. Its construction marked the final phase of the evolution of Pittsburgh’s Point Bridges, accommodating the transportation needs of the city more efficiently than its predecessors.

point bridge pittsburgh

The evolution of Pittsburgh’s Point Bridges is a testament to the city’s growth and constant quest for infrastructure improvement. From the humble beginnings of Jones Ferry to the modern marvel that is the Fort Pitt Bridge, these bridges have played a significant role in shaping the city’s transportation landscape. Despite the inevitable changes and advancements, the history of these bridges remains a cherished part of Pittsburgh’s rich heritage.

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