107-year old historic bridge brought down by explosives at 9:00 am CDT today. Fate of Webster uncertain
DONORA; WEBSTER; PITTSBURGH- The bridge once stood out over the Mongahela River as the symbol of unity between two villages located southeast of Pittsburgh. Many vehicles had crossed the 107-year old structure, at least 150 per day prior to its closing in 2009 due to structural concerns. Six years after its closing, the bridge is now a memory, with the river now dividing the two villages. The Donora-Webster Bridge was brought down by explosives this morning at 10:00am EDT (9:00am CDT/ 4:00pm Berlin Time). Prior to the historic event, two of the four Parker through truss approach spans on the Donora side plus the steel trestle approach spans on the Webster side had been removed, leaving the Pennsylvania petit main span and the remaining Parker truss spans on each end to be set up for implosion. Here’s a video of the implosion that happened this morning:
Hundreds of people from both villages paid their last respects to the bridge, yet the removal of the bridge, without any plans for a replacement span has left both villages reeling. Especially for the village of Webster, the fate is uncertain, as the community used to feed off its commerce from its sister village Donora, thanks to the bridge. It was built in 1908 by the Toledo-Massilon Bridge Company of Toledo, Ohio, with A.N. Nelson presiding over the construction of the bridge totalling 1547 feet (471.7 meters), with its main span being 517.5 feet- one of the longest in the country. A drone film of what the bridge looked like can be seen below:
When the bridge was closed in 2009, hundreds of locals still used the bridge to cross from point A to point B, while hundreds more from all over the US and Europe paid homage to the crossing in hopes that PennDOT will repair and reopen the bridge. The author was at the bridge as part of the tour itinerary of the 2010 Historic Bridge Weekend in western Pennsylvania. The bridge was quite massive and appeared to be in pristine condition with only a few rust spots that could have been repaired easily, as well as replacing the decking. Still, to the confusion of many locals and preservationists who do not understand the logic behind PennDOT’s decisions (especially as they had a tight budget), the fate of the bridge was sealed when bids were given out at the end of last year and the contractor agreed to remove the bridge by July of this year. No replacement has been planned yet, which is causing many businesses in Webster to either close up or relocate to the Donora side. Many residents are also moving away, which will eventually result in Webster becoming a ghost town by the end of this decade. Speaking from the experience of residents in Meadville, whose businesses were adversely affected by the closure of the Meade Avenue Bridge for seven years, this rippling effect of not having a bridge as its main link is understandable. And while the project to replace that bridge is underway, there are no plans for the Donora-Webster Bridge as of right now. And given the current situation, it appears the decision will be an indefinite one, which will be fatal for Webster and for residents being forced to drive seven miles to the nearest bridge on each end, especially for emergency crews, a true inconvenience that people will have to get used to, no matter what the cost.
Some more information about the bridge can be found via historicbridges.org here. The author took many photos of the bridge during his trip in 2010, all of which can be found via bridgehunter.com here.