Bridge in North Side park to be demolished
By Jason Cato
Published: Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
A century-old pedestrian bridge in the North Side's signature park will come down in a matter of hours early Saturday.
Demolition crews contracted by Norfolk Southern Railroad will raze the span of crumbing concrete in West Park between midnight and 5 a.m., dropping the bridge to the railroad tracks and trucking out the debris, said Patrick Hassett, assistant director of Pittsburgh Public Works.
The city capped reimbursement for the work at $199,000, he said.
“Everything over the railroad will go,” Hassett said.
The Allegheny Commons Initiative is afraid the longtime eyesore will become a different eyesore instead of helping to improve the aesthetics of the park — the city's oldest. It was recently added to the National Registry of Historic Places.
“There's no plan to put the landscape back together,” said Alida Baker, project director of the initiative, a neighborhood nonprofit trying to restore the park built in 1867.
The Lake Elizabeth Pedestrian Bridge was added in 1906, records show. The city closed it because of safety issues in 1998.
In 2010, the city's Historic Review Commission said the bridge could be removed as long as the railroad gave permission to replace the span and city crews restored the site with a matching railing and appropriate landscaping until it is rebuilt.
Hassett said there is no timetable for replacing the bridge, which he estimated could cost $2 million for a structure appropriate to the park. A cheaper, pre-fabricated version could be installed for about $500,000, he said.
“I would like the Allegheny Commons Initiative to lead that,” said Hassett, who noted Mayor-elect Bill Peduto's administration would have to determine when and if the project gets funded.
The initiative has concept drawings of a new bridge, but it has not raised money for the project, Baker said.
The group signed off on the demolition with the promise of the site being restored, she said.
“I'd be glad to talk about a new bridge, but I don't want a big mess there until then,” Baker said. “It will completely fall off the radar if they aren't held accountable now.”
The initiative has battled the city for years over a $5 million project to replace the vehicular truss bridge on West Ohio Street in West Park. The group contends a bridge raised to meet the current standard requiring a 22-foot clearance above the sunken railroad tracks would detract from the park's historic charm.
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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