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Love locks tokens fall prey to renovations on Pittsburgh bridges

James Knox | Trib Total Media - Love Locks adorn the Roberto Clemente Bridge Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox | Trib Total Media</em></div>Love Locks adorn the Roberto Clemente Bridge Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014.
James Knox | Trib Total Media - Love Locks adorn the Roberto Clemente Bridge Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox | Trib Total Media</em></div>Love Locks adorn the Roberto Clemente Bridge Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014.
James Knox | Trib Total Media - Love Locks adorn the Roberto Clemente Bridge Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox | Trib Total Media</em></div>Love Locks adorn the Roberto Clemente Bridge Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014.
James Knox | Trib Total Media - Love Locks adorn the Roberto Clemente Bridge Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox | Trib Total Media</em></div>Love Locks adorn the Roberto Clemente Bridge Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014.
James Knox | Trib Total Media - Love Locks adorn the Roberto Clemente Bridge Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>James Knox | Trib Total Media</em></div>Love Locks adorn the Roberto Clemente Bridge Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014.
AP - A tourist continues to fix a love padlock on the Pont des Arts bridge after a chunk of fencing with thousands of locks fell off under their weight in Paris, Monday, June 9, 2014. The thousands of locks that cling like barnacles to the Pont des Arts in Paris have become a symbol of danger, rather than love, after a chunk of fencing fell off under their weight. The fencing tumbled late Sunday on the pedestrian bridge, which crosses the Seine.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>A tourist continues to fix a love padlock on the Pont des Arts bridge after a chunk of fencing with thousands of locks fell off under their weight in Paris, Monday, June 9, 2014. The thousands of locks that cling like barnacles to the Pont des Arts in Paris have become a symbol of danger, rather than love, after a chunk of fencing fell off under their weight. The fencing tumbled late Sunday on the pedestrian bridge, which crosses the Seine.
AP - A newlywed couple kiss after attaching a padlock to the fence of a bridge over the Rhine in Cologne, Germany, in 2012.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>A newlywed couple kiss after attaching a padlock to the fence of a bridge over the Rhine in Cologne, Germany, in 2012.

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By Rachel Weaver
Monday, Sept. 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

While the love many couples share might be eternal, a token symbolizing it is doomed.

Hundreds of locks linked around panels of city bridges will be removed when repair work begins on the sister bridges — the Andy Warhol, Roberto Clemente and Rachel Carson bridges — in 2016, according to Allegheny County officials. The county maintains the bridges.

“We will be rehabilitating the sister bridges and will be removing the locks to paint the structures,” says Stephen G. Shanley, Allegheny County acting director of public works.

The practice of attaching locks of all shapes, sizes, colors and models to bridges originated in Europe and became popular in Pittsburgh over the past few years. Lock leavers add their names, initials, hearts and dates to their chosen memento and use them to mark everything from anniversaries and birthdays to memorials and shout-outs to favorite sports teams.

In some cases, the weight of all that sentimentality can be hazardous. Officials in France report the weight of all those locks is pulling railings down on the Seine River's aging bridges. To discourage the practice, Paris began a #lovewithoutlocks campaign recently in hopes couples will simply snap a selfie and upload it to social media in lieu of leaving locks.

Here in the Burgh, the enormity of local lovers' affection has yet to cause any problems.

“We are not aware of any issues with the locks, but if any arose, they would be removed,” Shanley says. “We regularly inspect all of our structures, and signs of damage or problems are immediately addressed.”

Tony Kerzmann, assistant professor and coordinator of mechanical engineering at Robert Morris University, first saw the love locks in Cologne, Germany, while traveling abroad with a group of students. Locks took up every inch of space on the Hohenzollern Bridge.

Yet, Kerzmann says, modern bridges are “highly over-designed for safety reasons.”

“They have what is called a factor of safety as high as seven in some cases, meaning an engineer determined the maximum weight that the bridge would possibly see and then designed the bridge to hold seven times that weight,” Kerzmann says. “Even if the bridge were covered with locks, the extra few thousand pounds should have no effect on the structural integrity of the bridge.”

The Schenley Bridge is another popular spot for locks, but there are no plans to remove them any time soon, says Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto.

“The city's public works department does not currently see any problems with the locks,” McNulty says. “But if a bridge needed repairs or repainting, the locks would likely be removed, and, in the case of Schenley Bridge, if it was judged the locks on the fence there blocked views of the valley below, they might have to be removed in part, too. There are no plans to do that at the moment, however.”

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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