31st Street Bridge in Pittsburgh

31st Street Bridge Pittsburgh

The Fascinating History of the 31st Street Bridge in Pittsburgh

The 31st Street Bridge, also known as the William Raymond Prom Memorial Bridge, is an iconic structure that spans the Allegheny River, connecting the neighborhoods of Troy Hill and the Strip District in Pittsburgh. This steel deck arch bridge has a rich history and has undergone significant transformations since its construction in 1927-1928. In this article, we will explore the captivating history of the 31st Street Bridge, from its early days to its present-day significance.

Early Years and Construction

31st Street Bridge Pittsburgh

The story of the 31st Street Bridge begins in the late 19th century when an earlier through truss bridge, aligned with 30th Street, was built in 1887. Unfortunately, this bridge met a tragic fate when it was destroyed by fire on July 8, 1921. However, a temporary cable suspension footbridge was erected to ensure a crossing while the new 31st Street Bridge was being constructed.

The construction of the new bridge took place between 1927 and 1928. The project was led by the Fort Pitt Bridge Works of Pittsburgh, PA, and engineered by the Allegheny County Department of Public Works. The bridge was designed as a steel deck arch with three main spans and open spandrels. The central span, known as the main channel span, measures approximately 360 feet in length, while the two side spans are around 180 feet each.

Renaming and Rehabilitation

In 2013, the bridge underwent a significant renaming to honor William R. Prom, who lost his life in the Vietnam War. Previously known as the Thirty-First Street Bridge, Number Six Allegheny River, it was officially renamed the William Raymond Prom Memorial Bridge. This renaming was a heartfelt tribute to a brave individual who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

Over the years, the bridge has required periodic maintenance and rehabilitation. In 2006-2007, a major refurbishment project took place, costing around $27 million. The rehabilitation included structural improvements, aesthetic enhancements, and a fresh coat of attractive blue paint. The original ornate railings were carefully preserved, ensuring the bridge’s historic integrity and aesthetic appeal.

31st Street Bridge Pittsburgh

Unique Architectural Features

The 31st Street Bridge boasts several unique architectural features that add to its charm and visual appeal. At each side of the center arch, the piers provide widened sections of sidewalk, acting as viewing platforms for pedestrians. These platforms offer a perfect vantage point to admire the stunning views of the Allegheny River and the surrounding landscape.

The bridge’s outer arch abutment piers rise above the deck and form stone pylons. These pylons are adorned with beautifully carved zig-zag motifs and additional decorative elements. Each pylon features a door/plaque adorned with the County of Allegheny seal and inscribed with information about the bridge’s construction, including the names of the county commissioners, the Department of Public Works, and the contractors involved.

31st Street Bridge Pittsburgh

Significance and Connections

The 31st Street Bridge plays a crucial role in connecting various important locations and transportation routes in Pittsburgh. It carries 31st Street (SR2122), providing a vital link between the neighborhoods of Troy Hill and the Strip District. Additionally, the bridge crosses over the Conrail (NS) Conemaugh Division railroad tracks, intersecting with River Avenue and providing access to the North Shore bike/hike trail. It also connects to Washington’s Landing, a historic area that has undergone revitalization and now offers residential and recreational amenities.

Surrounding Area and Development

The 31st Street Bridge not only serves as a transportation artery but also contributes to the overall aesthetic appeal of the surrounding area. The bridge’s design and dimensions are reminiscent of the nearby Washington Crossing Bridge, further enhancing the architectural character of the region.

The bridge’s historical significance extends beyond its own structure. Herr’s Island, now called Washington’s Landing, located nearby, has a rich history of its own. Initially settled by Benjamin Herr, the island was home to water-powered mills and stockyards. Over time, the stockyards were replaced by warehouses, and the island underwent a transformation into a residential and recreational hub. The island was renamed Washington’s Landing as part of the revitalization process, paying homage to George Washington’s historic crossing of the Allegheny River in 1753.

31st Street Bridge Pittsburgh

Future Plans and Preservation Efforts

The 31st Street Bridge remains a vital component of Pittsburgh’s transportation network and a cherished landmark in the city’s skyline. As with any aging structure, ongoing maintenance and preservation efforts are necessary to ensure its longevity. Routine inspections, repairs, and possible future rehabilitation projects will help preserve the bridge’s historic and architectural value for future generations.

Preservation organizations, such as the Bach Steel Company, specialize in historic truss bridge restoration and play a crucial role in maintaining and rehabilitating bridges like the 31st Street Bridge. By collaborating with experts in the field, the bridge’s unique features and historical significance can be preserved for many years to come.

The 31st Street Bridge stands as a testament to Pittsburgh’s rich history and engineering prowess. With its steel deck arch design, stunning views, and unique architectural elements, it has become an iconic symbol of the city. From its early construction to its renaming and ongoing preservation efforts, the bridge continues to serve as a vital transportation link and a source of pride for the community. As Pittsburgh evolves and grows, the 31st Street Bridge remains a cherished piece of its past and a symbol of its bright future.

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