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Hot Metal Bridge opens

Span links past, future

Saturday, June 24, 2000

By Joe Grata, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Correction/Clarification: (Published June 27, 2000) The Hot Metal Bridge is the first new vehicular bridge over the Monongahela River to open in the city in 22 years. A story on Saturday failed to note that the Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Allegheny River opened in November 1988.

The Hot Metal Bridge, the first new vehicular bridge in the city in 22 years, opened yesterday to connect Second Avenue near the Pittsburgh Technology Center and East Carson Street at the new South Side Works.

Bridge has long, important history


The converted 100-year-old railroad bridge has two lanes and is for cars and trucks only. There's no sidewalk for pedestrians to cross the Monongahela River, but city officials hope to secure funding to renovate the other half of the bridge for use by pedestrians and bicyclists.

The bridge adds the first new traffic access to Downtown and Oakland since the six-lane Birmingham Bridge opened in 1978, also touching down on East Carson Street and the South Side.

"Hopefully, this will mean less traffic on East Carson Street," Pittsburgh City Councilman Gene Ricciardi said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony staged under an arch of red, white and blue balloons.

The Hot Metal Bridge will primarily serve as a connection between the technology center on the north shore and South Side Works, a 130-acre development site on the south shore. But it can be driven by anyone.

"Without this bridge, most of the development would not be happening," said Mulugetta Birru, executive director of the city Urban Redevelopment Authority, which arranged for $14.6 million in city and state funds for the renovation of the bridge and construction of a four-lane Hot Metal Street leading to it that is lined with trees and old-fashioned street lamps.

When the high-profile economic development projects on reclaimed former steel mill property are fully built, he said, $300 million will have been invested in 3.7 million square feet of office, light industrial and other space, not including condos and apartments.

"The bridge is a link from the past to the future," Mayor Murphy said, praising its symbolism. "It signifies our steel-making history and provides our connection to high technology."

A parade of former steelworkers and public officials walked across the bridge after the ribbon-cutting. A caravan of vintage cars followed.

The bridge actually consists of two parallel bridges. The span that reopened yesterday formerly served for nearly a century for Monongahela Connecting Railroad Co. trains shuttling between the Jones & Laughlin steel mills on opposite sides of the river.

The parallel bridge was the true "hot metal" bridge, which shares the river piers but was used to transport molten iron from blast furnaces on the Hazelwood side to Bessemer converters and open hearth furnaces on the South Side, where the blooming mill and other finishing divisions long stood.

The other bridge will be converted into a pedestrian/bicycle bridge to connect trails on both sides of the Mon River and a trail extension into Oakland. The estimated $3 million project cost "is something we're working on," Birru said. "Within a year, we hope to start construction."

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