The original 28th Street Bridge was made of wood, built to allow horse-drawn carts to bring supplies and patients to West Penn Hospital, which was then located at 30th and Brereton Streets. The second bridge, a simple box-shaped steel structure, was replaced by the current bridge in 1931 (we featured the second bridge in a recent blog post). In the photo above, taken in September 1931 while the bridge was under construction, the hillside seems bare of trees, and Brereton Street is visible. Below is a view in the other direction, towards the Strip.
Hundreds of vehicles use the 28th Street Bridge every day, either coming up from the Strip District, or down from Bigelow Boulevard, to Paulowna and 30th, turning onto Brereton and then over the bridge. None of these streets were designed for the amount of traffic that moves through every day and the bridge, which is now eighty-one years old, is seriously in need of repairs. The photo below was taken in 2010; the sidewalks look much worse today.
In a recent online article about Pittsburgh’s deteriorating bridges the 28th Street Bridge was highlighted as an example of Pittsburgh’s infrastructure by a team led by Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner. The team looked at the base of the bridge:
“This is a structural component of a bridge,” said Wagner as he pulled concrete from the base of the bridge. “Look at the steel on this bridge. It is crumbling. It is crumbling, but there’s still traffic going over the bridge. This bridge is calling out for an immediate solution to correct the structural deficiency.” According to a recent study, almost a third of the Pittsburgh region’s bridges were structurally deficient, which was the highest among the 102 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S.
We’re proud of the 28th Street Bridge, which has a great history and is part of a wonderfully scenic entrance into Polish Hill. The massive curved stone wall, leading to the bridge which leads straight into wooded hillside and then up into almost- hidden neighborhood, has an almost fairy-tale quality. But we can’t deny that the bridge, along with so many others, needs work.
(First two photos from the Historic Pittsburgh Image Archive. Photo of the 28th Street Bridge sidewalk by Leslie Clague for the PHCA; photo of the deteriorated bridge support by Nick Jovanovich for Essential Public Radio)