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New Clemente Bridge lighting ready to glow

By Tom Barnes,
Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Downtown Pittsburgh is about to get significantly brighter, as new lighting bursts onto the scene tomorrow and Friday nights.

For 10 minutes starting at 6:45 p.m. tomorrow, fireworks will explode from the Roberto Clemente Bridge, marking the debut of the long-anticipated lighting of the span that links Sixth Street with PNC Park.

The bridge will be closed to vehicles and pedestrians starting at 10 a.m. tomorrow. It won’t reopen until midnight. The span will be closed so workers from Zambelli Internationale can set up the fireworks display. Motorists and pedestrians are advised to use the Seventh or Ninth street bridges.

The lighting project, which has been in the planning stage for a year, is being funded by a $500,000 grant from Duquesne Light Co. It covers the cost of electricity and includes $50,000 for ongoing maintenance and replacement of light fixtures.

Installation of the lighting started in August and includes five types of fixtures, most with white globes accented by blue lamps that echo those at PNC Park.

There will be four new “portal” light fixtures, two on each end of the bridge. Each fixture contains five large white globes 13 feet above a stone pier.

There will be 32 fixtures, each with a single white globe on top, stretching down each side of the bridge.

There will be 74 smaller blue lamps attached to the curving upper portions of the bridge structure to outline the top of the bridge.

Floodlights will illuminate the vertical cables and towers. Floodlights also will shine on the piers.

Tomorrow night’s ceremony includes speeches by government and Duquesne Light officials, beginning at 6:15 p.m and leading up to the fireworks.

Speakers include Gov.-elect Ed Rendell; Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey; City Councilman Sala Udin; Tom Cox, Mayor Tom Murphy’s executive secretary; Morgan O’Brien, chief executive officer of DQE, parent company of Duquesne Light; John Craig, Post-Gazette editor and co-chairman of the Riverlife Task Force, a privately funded group that seeks to beautify and enliven city waterfronts; and Arthur Ziegler, president of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, which lit the Smithfield Street Bridge in 1984.

The Clemente Bridge lights will be turned on right after the fireworks display.

The bridge, built in 1924, was called the Sixth Street Bridge until a year ago. It will be lit from dusk to dawn, 365 days a year.

Officials from the city and the Riverlife Task Force are hoping that corporate sponsors can be found to light other bridges, especially the Clemente Bridge’s two sister spans, the Seventh and Ninth street bridges.

The lighting extravaganza will continue Friday with daytime and nighttime activities that are part of the annual Light Up Night, marking the start of the Christmas holiday shopping season.

Downtown buildings will keep their lights on and newly installed “snowflakes,” 5-foot-wide fixtures containing small white lights, will decorate streets in the commercial core Downtown, including Fifth Avenue, Wood Street and Market Square. The snowflakes, which will be turned on at 5:10 p.m., are also sponsored by Duquesne Light.

Murphy will return from a trip to China in time to light a 48-foot decorated holiday tree at the Grant Street entrance of the City-County Building. The lighting is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Friday.

Duquesne Light will also sponsor its annual tree of lights near the fountain in Point State Park.

Another fireworks display will mark Light Up Night at 9 p.m. A complete list of activities is available at the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s Web site,

The Port Authority said it will expand service Friday evening for Light Up Night activities. Extra light-rail vehicles and buses will be in service and shuttle buses will be added between the upper and lower stations of the Monongahela Incline.

Port Authority officials noted some Downtown street closures Friday night that will affect bus routes, beginning as early as 8 p.m. Routes affected will include those on Liberty, Forbes, Penn and Fifth avenues and Stanwix and Smithfield streets.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633