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Pittsburgh’s Clemente Bridge is first to get a lighting sponsor

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

By Mike Bucsko, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Duquesne Light Co. yesterday agreed to pay for decorative lighting on the Roberto Clemente Bridge.

It’s the first of what the city hopes will be a long line of benefactors paying to light more than a dozen bridges that line Pittsburgh’s three rivers Downtown.

During a news conference at the Renaissance Hotel, DQE Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Morgan O’Brien said he was unsure of the project’s cost because it would depend on the lighting design chosen. Duquesne Light is a subsidiary of DQE, a Moon-based holding company.

Riverlife Task Force Co-Chairman John G. Craig Jr. estimated the cost for the design, installation and lighting of the bridge to be $300,000 to $500,000.

Craig, who is editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, said electricity would be the smallest expense.

The lighting project is a combined effort of the Riverlife Task Force, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, Allegheny County and the city of Pittsburgh.

The planned illumination of the Clemente Bridge will include lighting along the top and bottom of the span so the design and form of the structure will be visible to pedestrians on the Allegheny River walks, as well as to motorists and pedestrians on the bridge, said Haldane Hilbish, the lighting designer.

Though the design is not completed, only fine-tuning remains, Hilbish said. The goal is to have the lighting in place by the April season opener for the Pirates at PNC Park, he said.

The bridge, formerly known as the Sixth Street Bridge, will not have a string of lights like the Smithfield Street Bridge but will be illuminated by white metallic lighting similar to street lights that will accent its structure, Hilbish said. The lighting will be installed along the vertical steel suspenders that hang from the bridge’s main supports, as well as from supports beneath the structure.

The lighting design selected for the Clemente Bridge will be duplicated on its so-called “sister” bridges at Seventh and Ninth streets, once sponsors are found to pay for the lighting, Hilbish said. The goal is to have uniformity in the illumination because the bridges are identical, he said.

“We don’t want to create a carnival Downtown,” Hilbish said.

The Clemente Bridge and its two sibling bridges were built in the 1920s. It is the fourth bridge at that location since 1819, said Arthur Ziegler, executive director of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

Craig called the lighting of the Clemente Bridge a “demonstration project” that could be used as the kickoff for efforts to light the 14 bridges that ring the Downtown area.

City Councilman Sala Udin, who has been instrumental in the effort to light the city’s bridges, called them “engineering marvels and works of art” that should be illuminated for the world to see.

“I will not rest until all the bridges in Downtown Pittsburgh are lit,” Udin said.

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

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