Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

HERE'S WISHING A LONG LIFE TO EAST END BRIDGE [Corrected 06/18/13]

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

HERE'S WISHING A LONG LIFE TO EAST END BRIDGE [Corrected 06/18/13]

Article excerpt

I love bridges, and I could hardly pick a better city to love them in. Pittsburgh, by one count, has 446. (Put that in your pasta bowl, Venice.)

The city's dedicating a new bridge Friday afternoon, though it's been up for more than a year. The funky footbridge, designed by Sheila Klein, spans railroad tracks and the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway to connect East Liberty and Shadyside. It became an especially crucial link in March when the creaky old South Highland Avenue vehicular bridge was taken out so it could be replaced with something sturdier.

I used the footbridge Tuesday, which offers a seamless stroll from the Eastside stores of recent vintage to the venerable galleries, antique shops and eateries along Ellsworth Avenue. The bridge cost a couple of million bucks, but it's pretty with its glass orbs, sequins and black-white-and-gold surface, and it meets plenty of pairs of feet.

Pretty and functional beats ugly and useless. That's the way too many North Side bridges have gone in the past decade. The Davis Avenue Bridge was demolished in 2009 after being closed to cars for eight years, and at least three footbridges are out as well.

In a state with 4,000 structurally deficient bridges, maybe that's par for the course, but it's no way for our city of bridges to operate. (We don't want Venice pulling back ahead in the bridge count, so here's hoping the Venetians are blind to our setbacks.) Footbridges may never get the notice that their vehicular brethren do, but their losses are felt by the thousands within walking distance.

I live down the street from Allegheny Commons, the oldest public park west of the Allegheny Mountains, as North Siders are happy to tell you. When our younger daughter was 2 years old, the city shut down the century-old concrete bridge that spanned the four railroad tracks in the big old ditch that slices through the park.

Thus the short walk from the playground to the duck pond, a never- give-it-a-thought tradition for generations of nearby families, was no more. The bridge was supposed to be out a couple of years. It's now been 11. Ghetto palms sprout from what's left of its fenced-off surface. …

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