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Region’s renaissance shines through as another span is lit

By F.A. Krift
Friday, June 13, 2008 

For Mark Bibro, the Hot Metal Bridge is more than a way to get to opposite shores of the Monongahela River.The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation chairman says it’s a symbol of Pittsburgh’s industrial past, and a connection point for the city’s future in research jobs and riverfront redevelopment. Illuminating the bridge Thursday night was another sign of the changes Pittsburgh continues to make as it reinvents itself.

“Suddenly, we’ve created high-tech jobs that will be here forever across the bridge,” Bibro said as he pointed to the Monongahela River’s north side. “On this side, it’s the place to go in Pittsburgh.”

Gov. Ed Rendell told electricians to “light up the bridge” by its South Side exit, and red, yellow and orange lights turned on, completing a $150,000 Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation decorative lighting project on the century-old bridge.

Cities are built on feeling as much as substantive measures like improved schools and balanced budgets, Rendell said. Illuminating bridges like the Hot Metal Bridge shows how Pittsburgh continues to renew itself, he said.Anthony Owens, 42, of Overbrook stopped his bike ride to watch the ceremony. After years away from his hometown, he returned to Pittsburgh in 2004 and couldn’t believe how the South Side’s shore had changed from steel mills into a retail spot. Lighting the bridge was a validation of the transformation, he said. 

“It’s amazing,” Owens said. “I’m a fan of what’s happened here.”

The colors on the bridge are supposed to represent the liquefied metal that once traveled on the Hot Metal Bridge. Ladle cars took the molten metal from Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. blast furnaces on the Monongahela’s north shore to south side open hearth furnaces. Now, people on foot, on bicycles and in cars travel to the SouthSide Works living, dining and entertainment center.

“Today, ideas are transported across this bridge via young people on bikes,” said Christine Fulton, vice president of external relations for Soffer Organization.

The Hot Metal Bridge connects SouthSide Works at South 29th Street to Oakland’s Second Avenue and spans 321 feet and 4 inches from bank to bank. It crosses the Monongahela 3.1 miles upstream from Point State Park’s fountain.

Using the bridge makes good use of an artifact from Pittsburgh’s smoky steel-based past, History & Landmarks Foundation President Arthur Ziegler said, while the city progresses toward pushing service industry growth and riverfront redevelopment.

The incandescent tubular lighting trims the entryways of the vehicle bridge, which was originally the railway bridge. The adjacent bridge actually was the crossing used to carry molten metal between facilities, but the twin spans now are commonly referred as the Hot Metal Bridge.

The bridge opened two lanes to vehicles in 2000. In 2007, the downstream bridge was opened for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation previously lit the Smithfield Street Bridge and the Roberto Clemente Bridge decoratively.

“We want to light all the bridges here,” Ziegler said. “We’re the ‘City of Bridges.’ This is a good one to do because we were trying to enliven the entrance from Second Avenue into the South Side.”

Pittsburgh has 446 bridges, more than any other city in the world. Thirty span a river.

A $125,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development at Rendell’s request primarily funded the Hot Metal Bridge project. Additional funding came from the Soffer Organization, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Wellington Power Corp. and the History & Landmarks Foundation



F.A. Krift can be reached at or 412-380-5644. 


Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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