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Clemente Bridge’s future looking brighter

By Tom Barnes,
Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Friday, August 23, 2002

Work will begin Monday on an elaborate $500,000 plan to illuminate the Roberto Clemente Bridge, one of three “sister bridges” that span the Allegheny River between Downtown and the North Shore.

Duquesne Light Co. is providing funding to devise and install the wiring and lighting fixtures on the bridge, built in 1924 and formerly named the Sixth Street Bridge. The money includes $50,000 for an endowment to maintain the fixtures and pay for electricity.

Arthur Ziegler, president of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, which worked with Duquesne Light on the the project, said it hopes additional corporate sponsors can be found so that more bridges can get similar treatment.

“The lighting will make the rivers look good and draw attention to the handsome structure of the many bridges we have,” Ziegler said.

He’s especially interested in lighting the Ninth Street Bridge — because it’s closest to the new convention center — and the Seventh Street Bridge, the second and third of the “sister” bridges. He said the Fort Pitt and 16th Street bridges are also leading candidates for lighting if sponsors can be found.

History & Landmarks found two lighting experts, Ray Grenald of Philadelphia and Hal Hilbish of Sewickley to provide technical expertise on lighting design. Grenald advised History & Landmarks when it put lights on the Smithfield Street Bridge in 1983.

Work is to begin Monday to install wiring, brackets and other elements of the Clemente Bridge lighting system, said Maureen Hogel, a Duquesne Light senior vice president. The work will take about 10 weeks and should be completed by November. A precise date for turning on the lights hasn’t been set.

Duquesne Light agreed to be the first corporate sponsor in November, soon after Morgan K. O’Brien became chief executive officer and decided to relocate company offices from suburban locations back to Downtown, to the Chamber of Commerce Building on Seventh Avenue.

“This seemed like a good opportunity for us to say that we’re back in Pittsburgh, that we’re committed to the city and that we want to be a partner in seeing it grow,” Hogel said.

The work of installing the light fixtures and wiring will, from time to time over the next 10 weeks, entail closing a lane or two on the bridge to traffic.

Duquesne Light officials yesterday released an artist’s depiction of the lighted bridge.

The picture shows six different elements of the lighting plan. On the Downtown and North Shore ends, new structures holding five lamps each will be erected atop stone piers. The tops of the lamps will stand 13 feet above the tops of the piers.

The bright lamps will serve to mark the entrances to the bridge, Duquesne Light officials said.

Thirty-two pedestrian lights, designed to be old-fashioned in appearance, will be erected along both sides of the bridge, 16 on each side. These lights, which are intended to be decorative as well as functional, will be designed to match the light fixtures that were used when the bridge opened in 1924.

Tall, thin poles will hold “roadway lights,” more powerful than the pedestrian lights, which will shine down directly on the road surface for the benefit of motorists. These poles are designed to be visually unobtrusive. Brackets to hold the poles must be welded to the outside of the bridge railings.

A fourth type of lighting will shine up toward the bridge towers, the two tall superstructures that face Downtown and the North Shore and whose “Aztec gold” color should show up well in the lights.

Blue lights will be placed along the nodes of the bridge cables — called catenaries — that curve from the railings up to the top of the towers. These will be similar in appearance to the blue lights that dot the upper reaches of PNC Park at the northern end of the bridge.

Lastly, lights will be placed on the underside of the bridge and will shine down on the stone piers that support the bridge.

Besides History & Landmarks and Duquesne Light, other groups involved in the Clemente Bridge lighting project include the Pirates; the Renaissance Hotel, at the Downtown end of the span; Councilman Sala Udin, who represents Downtown and the North Shore; Allegheny County, which owns the bridge; and the Riverlife Task Force, a 3-year-old private group that held 120 public hearings on what should be done to improve local riverfronts and found strong public support for enhancing the appearance of the city’s bridges at night.

Tom Barnes can be reached at or 412-263-1548.

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. © Pittsburgh Post Gazette

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