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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Greenfield Bridge To Close For 19 Months Beginning Friday

Liz Reid
90.5 WESA

If you want to take one last drive across the 93-year-old Greenfield Bridge, you had better do it before Friday at 10 p.m.

That’s when the bridge will close to automobile traffic; it will remain closed until the new bridge opens in May 2017.

Detours will take drivers onto the Parkway East to Bates Street, Boulevard of the Allies and Panther Hollow Road.

Port Authority buses will also be detoured, and there will be detours posted for cyclists and pedestrians.

Officials will also close the Parkway East, which runs underneath the bridge, for two weekends between Friday and December 25 as crews begin disassembling the old bridge. Those weekends have not yet been identified, but the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will notify drivers ahead of time, officials said.

The Parkway East will also be closed for five days between December 26 and January 3 for implosion of the remainder of the bridge.

“We have no other options,” said Pittsburgh’s Chief Operations Officer Guy Costa. “This bridge must come down, and this bridge must drop between Christmas and New Year’s. If we can’t get this bridge dropped in that five-day window, we’re in trouble.”

Once the Parkway closes, local traffic will be routed onto Beechwood Boulevard to Forward Avenue, Murray Avenue and Beacon Street. Parkway traffic will be detoured at Forbes, onto Fifth, then to Penn Avenue and to the Wilkinsburg interchange.

Greenfield Bridge & Parkway East detour

The detour routes were created in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University’s Mobility Analytics Center. Public Works Director Mike Gable said his department, along with CMU researchers and public safety staffers, will continually monitor how well the detours are working and will make route and traffic signal adjustments where necessary.

Costa said the city is asking residents and commuters to be patient during the 19-month demolition and construction period.

“It is a major link for motorists, pedestrians and for bikers,” he said. “We know it’s going to be an inconvenience, but it’s a 93-year-old bridge that needs to come down.”

Planning for the $17.5 million project began in 1999, and if construction stays on schedule, it will put the city about two years ahead of its original anticipated completion date of 2019. About 80 percent of the funds for reconstruction are coming from the federal government, with 15 percent from the state and just 5 percent from the city.

Assistant Director of Public Works Patrick Hassett said the new bridge will look much like the old one.

Credit Courtesy HDR, Inc.
A digital rendering of the new Beechwood Boulevard Bridge, which is expected to be completed in May 2017.

“All of the architectural features on the bridge now will be dismantled, restored and reinstated on the new bridge,” he said. “That includes the four pylons, the five urns and the one streetlight obelisk that is hidden on the other end of the bridge.”

The city will hold one last hurrah for the nearly century old bridge on Saturday from 4 p.m. to midnight. The Greenfield Bridge Rock Away the Blues Bridgefest will feature live music and a raffle to win the honor of pushing the plunger and imploding the bridge in late December.

Hassett said it’s a way to pay tribute to the residents and businesses that will be most affected by the bridge’s closure.

“(We’re) providing for them a ceremony to commemorate the passing of this icon and a way to look forward in terms of helping mitigate the impacts of the (project),” he said. “All the proceeds from the event will go toward a business and community impact fee that will help keep Greenfield alive during the two years without this critical link.”

The very last time to step foot on the old bridge will be Sunday morning at 10 a.m. for a free yoga class.

“So bring your mat,” Hassett said.