The crumbling Greenfield Bridge may be demolished in a few years, with a larger structure slated to take its place.
By approving bills to fund a study of the proposed demolition, Pittsburgh City Council has started the engine of a process that would result in the demolition and replacement of the 89-year-old bridge, which spans the Parkway East near the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.
Pat Hasset of the Pittsburgh Department of Public Works said the study would examine the details of both parts of the process.
"It is both going to include the demolition of the structure, which will be an implosion down onto the Parkway — we're scheduling that for the Christmas week of 2014, where traffic on the Parkway seems to be the lowest throughout the year," said Hasset. "And then it will be replaced with a brand new structure on the existing foundations and abuttment walls."
Hasset said the new bridge would take about 18 months to build, pegging its grand opening in the summer of 2016. He said it would cost several million dollars, and would provide "twice the service" of the current bridge, which accomodates 15,000 cars each day.
Councilman Doug Shields, whose District includes the bridge, said he wants a study of the inevitable traffic problems raised by the demolition of the current Greenfield Bridge.
"If the bridge comes down, what is the traffic impact?" asked Shields. "It's one thing to take a bridge down. It's another thing to deal with the impacts of where that's going."
Four-fifths of the project's funding would come from the Federal Highway Administration, with 15% coming from the state and just 5% charged to Pittsburgh — but Shields said he's not sure the Commonwealth will come through with the cash.
"I just have a lot of doubts about where the state's going with infrastructure funding," said Shields. "Maybe that's the song they're singing today, that we're going to get these funds nailed down, but I would advise the city to get something in more than writing."
Hasset stressed the need for a new bridge by noting the extensive repairs necessary to prevent damage to cars on the Parkway.
"In 1980, it was significantly renovated, where a lot of the ornamentation was removed, and the new deck was put in place. In the early 1990s, we constructed the subdeck, the structure underneath the bridge that is currently in place to catch debris," said Hasset. "However, we found that to be a little bit inadequate, so we started wrapping the concrete arches with netting."
After two attempts at containing the crumbling concrete with netting, the city has decided now is the time to demolish the structure, built in 1922 as the Beechwood Boulevard Bridge.
After passing a committee vote unanimously Wednesday, the pair of bills is expected to pass a final vote Tuesday.