Greenfield Bridge brought down by explosives

Photo taken by Nathan Holth

93-year old historic bridge in dire straits put out of its misery together with a falsework bridge beneath it.

PITTSBURGH-  It was a posterboy of Pennsylvania’s infrastructure, touted as one of the worst in the country, but it was a classic example of a bridge whose life would have extended beyond a century, had the state and Allegheny County each contributed enough money for rehabilitating the structure. Now the Greenfield Bridge, a 1922 open spandrel concrete deck arch bridge has become a piece of history, and an example of wasted tax dollars that could have better been spent maintaining it!

Crews imploded the 142 meter long (466 ft.) bridge, a work of the local bridge builder E.M. Wichert, this morning, dropping it and the falsework bridge onto Interstate 376. The explosion took a few seconds, albeit the scheduled demo was delayed by 20 minutes due to intruders in the vicinity, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. The bridge carried Beechwood Blvd, spanning I-376, located between Oakland and Squirrel Hill Tunnel. A video shows the bridge being brought down below:

The bridge had deteriorated to a point where planning for a new span began in 2010 for a new span. Yet, according to Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org, the deterioration could have been hindered had money been spent properly. “Countless historic bridges have been neglected and/or demolished and replaced for no other reason than that the system for funding bridge projects in the United States is severely flawed and encourages agencies to defer maintenance and rehabilitation until the bridge deteriorates to a serious condition, at which point those agencies are rewarded with demolition and full replacement funds from the federal government. This system has destroyed history, wasted tax dollars, and probably reduced safety as well,” he mentioned in his website. He later adds, “The system need considerable reform, so that greater quantities of funding are provided from the federal government to state and local agencies for the purpose of bridge maintenance and rehabilitation, thus reducing the need for costly, destructive, and inconvenient replacement projects. At the same time, state and local agencies should have to pay a larger percentage of the cost for replacing a bridge, which would decrease the incentive for deferring maintenance and letting a bridge deteriorate.” Because of concrete pieces falling off the bridge, a falsework bridge was built over the Interstate to catch the debris at a cost of $700,000, something Holth and other preservationists have considered a waste of money. That bridge was also brought down along with the arch bridge.

The Greenfield Bridge had been listed as one of 13 pre-1940 concrete arch bridges in the greater Pittsburgh area that needed attention as far as preservation and the National Register of Historic Places are concerned. Unfortunately, once the Interstate is cleared of all the debris from the wrecked bridges, a steel arch bridge will be put into place, expected to be open to traffic by the end of next year. According to sources, railings and other features will mimic the bridge lost to history. Yet it will never resemble the bridge that became a victim of a system in dire need of reform to reduce the amount of wasted money and preserve some history, something Pittsburgh has taken pride in with the city’s numerous bridges.

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