Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Bridge – Part 1: Wilksboro Avenue Footbridge

Welcome to Rebuilding the Rust Belt.  The inaugural post is Part 1 of a series in anticipation of next week’s Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place 2014 conference over 3.5 days in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

During day 3’s City of Bridges Bicycle Tour, I’ll have the pleasure of showing off my home city’s bridges to bike/ped planning geeks from across the USA.  The tour will highlight the good and bad of bicycle and pedestrian service on Pittsburgh’s river crossings.  But because we will miss many other sites of interest (Pittsburgh has 446 bridges!), I’m supplementing the tour content in this series.

Wilksboro Avenue Footbridge

A most unique pedestrian structure is the Wilksboro Avenue Footbridge in the Brighton Heights section of Pittsburgh’s North Side (one of 18 distinct North Side neighborhoods).

South Entrance (photo by author)

South Entrance (photo by author)

Constructed in the 1880’s, the bridge carried pedestrians (and presumably bikes as well) over a ravine, helping to connect the mostly residential area around Termon Avenue to California Avenue and to a school.  After years of neglect (and an attempt to drive a VW Bug over the span) the bridge was closed, and remains so today.

Bridge Surroundings (Google Maps)

Bridge Surroundings (Google Maps)

The 407 ft long walkway is composed of a concrete deck on light steel framing, supported by kingpost trusses on steel bents – some as high as 120 ft – reaching eye level with surrounding treetops (dimensions, credit www.pghbridges.com).  Foundations and abutments consist of stone masonry.

Bridge Elevation (www.pghbridges.com)

Bridge Elevation (www.pghbridges.com)

Surprisingly, the structure is in decent condition.  My cursory inspection revealed intact steelwork with deteriorated paint.  The most serious problem appears to be a crumbling south abutment.  Otherwise, small miscellaneous repairs and a complete sandblasting and painting would effectively rehabilitate the bridge.  (Some have quoted $800,000 to for a complete rehab, but I would expect it to cost more.)

Crumbling Abutment (photo by author)

Crumbling Abutment (photo by author)

Although the City had at one time been willing to spend $200,000 to demolish the Wilksboro Avenue Footbridge, it last stood that there is $400,000 set aside for repairs.  Taking advantage of this historic preservation opportunity does not appear to be a priority for the City at this time.  But, as delicate as the iron work may appear, we can expect this gem to hang on a few more years.

Wilksboro Avenue Footbridge (photo by author)

Wilksboro Avenue Footbridge (photo by author)

2 thoughts on “Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Bridge – Part 1: Wilksboro Avenue Footbridge

  1. Nice post! My next visit to Pittsburgh I would definitely like to check this bridge out., Do you know when it was closed to the public? What is the alternative path if this bridge is unavailable?

    • Hey neighbor! I believe it was closed in the early 2000s, but not certain. As an alternative to the bridge, people have to walk about a mile out of their way (around Marmaduke Playground, see map above). I guess the it’s existence shows that pedestrian travel was a priority for the day’s infrastructure stewards.

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