The Birmingham Bridge in Pittsburgh

Birmingham Bridge

The Birmingham Bridge in Pittsburgh

The Birmingham Bridge, located on the South Side of Pittsburgh, connecting Carson Street to downtown, has a rich and complex history. It’s a key transit route that plays a pivotal role in the city’s infrastructure.

The initial bridge on the South Side of Pittsburgh was a tolled covered bridge, which was the only fixed crossing to the central part of the city until 1896. The creation of the Brady Street Bridge, later renamed the Birmingham Bridge, marked a significant milestone as it was the city’s second river crossing and the first toll-free river crossing in the area.

Construction of the Brady Street Bridge

The Brady Street Bridge, also known as the South 22nd Street Bridge, was inaugurated and opened to the public on March 25, 1896. The bridge was a remarkable engineering feat of its time, with a total length of 2,530 feet and a main bowstring tied arch span length of 520 feet. The bridge also featured two flanking modified Pratt truss spans of 260 feet each.

Challenges and Deterioration

By the 1960s, the Brady Street Bridge was showing significant wear and tear due to heavy usage from trucks and trolleys. Structural deficiencies led to the closing of the bridge to all traffic in September 1968. After substantial repairs, the bridge reopened in October 1969, but it was permanently closed again on May 1, 1976.

Demolition and Replacement

Following its closure, the Brady Street Bridge was detonated into the Monongahela River on May 29, 1978. The demolition marked the end of an era, but also paved the way for the birth of a new structure that would carry on its legacy — the Birmingham Bridge.

Planning for a replacement of the deteriorating Brady Street Bridge began in the early 1960s. However, the city’s indecision over how to interchange the new crossing with local streets caused significant delays. Construction of the new bridge finally resumed in 1974.

Birmingham Bridge

The Birmingham Bridge

In March 1977, the new bridge was officially renamed the Birmingham Bridge, after Birmingham, England. The new bridge was completed at a cost of $33 million and opened to the public in December 1977. It was a notable accomplishment, reflecting the city’s commitment to improving its infrastructure and honoring its history.

In April 2007, significant repair work was carried out on the roadway deck and barrier wall of the Birmingham Bridge. Additionally, in February 2008, a section of a girder dropped from its rocker bearings onto a pier. Following this incident, extensive repairs and inspections were conducted to ensure the safety and integrity of the structure.

Birmingham Bridge Today

Today, the Bridge stands as a testament to Pittsburgh’s resilience and commitment to progress. It continues to serve as a vital link, connecting various parts of the city and facilitating the movement of people and goods.

The history of the Birmingham Bridge serves as a reminder of the city’s journey through time — from the early days of the Brady Street Bridge to the contemporary structure that stands today. The Birmingham Bridge, much like the city of Pittsburgh itself, embodies the spirit of transformation, resilience, and continual progress.

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