The Rachel Carson Bridge in Pittsburgh

rachel carson bridge

The Rachel Carson Bridge: A Historic Landmark in Pittsburgh

The Rachel Carson Bridge, also commonly known as the Ninth Street Bridge, serves as a significant landmark in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh, PA. This remarkable structure stretches across the Allegheny River, providing a crucial link for both vehicle and foot traffic.

A Tribute to a Notable Personality

The bridge was named in honor of the acclaimed naturalist and author Rachel Carson, who was born in Springdale, just 18 miles northeast of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County. Carson’s work as an environmentalist has had a profound impact, making her a fitting namesake for this important piece of infrastructure.

Unique Architectural Features

The Rachel Carson Bridge is one of the “Three Sisters,” a trio of parallel bridges that are the only identical set of bridges in the world. Along with the Roberto Clemente Bridge and the Andy Warhol Bridge, these bridges are the first self-anchored suspension spans to be constructed in the United States.

rachel carson bridge

Dimensions and Design

The Rachel Carson Bridge measures 840 feet (260 m) in total length, which includes a 410-foot (120 m) main span and two 215-foot (66 m) side spans. If you include the approaches, the total length extends to 995 feet (303 m).

The bridge’s deck spans 62 feet (19 m) in width, consisting of a 38-foot (12 m) roadway and two 10-foot (3.0 m) sidewalks that are located outside the compressive plate girder. The roadway was initially designed to accommodate two vehicle lanes and two streetcar tracks. However, it was later modified to carry four wide vehicle lanes. A refurbishment project carried out in 2019-2020 further reduced the lanes to three.

A Rich History

The Ninth Street Bridge has a storied history. It was officially opened on November 26, 1926, with Commissioner Babcock, Mayor Kline, and city council members, including Herron and McArdle, in attendance. The construction cost amounted to $1.46 million, equivalent to $24.1 million in 2023 terms.

On Earth Day, April 22, 2006, the bridge was renamed after Rachel Carson. This change was the result of extensive lobbying by Esther Barazzone, the president of Chatham University, which is Carson’s alma mater.

rachel carson bridge


Refurbishment and Upgrades

In recent years, the Rachel Carson Bridge underwent significant refurbishment due to age-related deterioration. The bridge was closed to vehicles and pedestrians on February 11, 2019, for a comprehensive rehabilitation project. This project involved the replacement of the bridge deck and sidewalks, total repainting of the superstructure, and steel repairs for various parts of the bridge. The bridge was reopened in November 2020 after the completion of a $23.3 million rehabilitation project.

A Photogenic Landmark

This historic bridge is a popular subject for photography due to its architectural significance and its position within the picturesque Pittsburgh skyline. From the south bank of the Allegheny, a stunning view of the bridge’s roadway and south tower can be captured. A plaque on the North Shore of the bridge provides historical context for this beloved structure.

rachel carson bridge

The Rachel Carson Bridge stands as a testament to Pittsburgh’s rich history and commitment to architectural innovation. Its unique design, historical significance, and legacy of Rachel Carson make it a cherished landmark in the city’s landscape. Whether you’re crossing it during your commute, admiring it from afar, or studying its architectural intricacies, the Rachel Carson Bridge undoubtedly leaves a lasting impression.

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