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42nd Street Bridge

42nd Street Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: May 31, 2010

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
42nd Street Over Railroad (Amtrak)
Philadelphia: Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania: United States
Structure Type
Metal Solid Ribbed Through Arch, Fixed and Approach Spans: Concrete Continuous Deck Girder, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1909 By Builder/Contractor: Owego Bridge Company of Owego, New York and Engineer/Design: Philadelphia Department of Public Works

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
262 Feet (79.9 Meters)
Structure Length
308 Feet (93.9 Meters)
Roadway Width
30.8 Feet (9.39 Meters)
1 Main Span(s) and 2 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

This bridge is a rare example of a historic metal through arch bridge. Metal through arch bridges are an uncommon structure type. This bridge is significant on a state level as the oldest steel through arch in Pennsylvania. Additional significance for the bridge arises from the fact that the bridge is a contributing structure to the historic Pennsylvania Railroad main line, which the bridge crosses. The bridge is composed of a riveted built-up solid arch rib with rolled i-beam spandrel columns. The bridge has overhead sway bracing that is composed of built-up beams, with the bottom section having a decorative arched design.

This bridge is an excellent example of a compromise rehabilitation. In 2006, the bridge received an extensive rehabilitation. HistoricBridges.org calls this rehabilitation a compromise because a significant amount of original bridge material was replaced, reducing the historic integrity of the bridge, however doing so had the result of producing a final product that in terms of structural condition is like-new and can easily be expected to have a service life that will be equal to or far greater than any modern bridge would have offered. Indeed, two years after the rehabilitation, this bridge received a 9/9 (Excellent) rating, the highest possible ratings in the National Bridge Inventory, for all three bridge elements: deck, superstructure and substructure. Such high ratings for a historic bridge, even one that has been rehabilitated, are nearly unheard of. As mentioned it appears that large quantities of original bridge material have been replaced. Large numbers of rivets on the bridge were replaced with bolts. It appears that the sway bracing was all replaced as well, but it appears to have been replaced in-kind so that the design and appearance remains the same. The spandrel columns were also strengthened during rehabilitation. In conclusion, this bridge is an excellent example of how a historic bridge can be rehabilitated to the point where it offers structural integrity equal to that of a new replacement bridge. The city-owned bridge serves as a counter-example to the normal position and opinion of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) that a rehabilitated historic metal bridge (such as a truss or arch bridge) will only offer an additional 25 years of service. The 42nd Street Bridge, rehabilitated to like-new condition can now easily provide an additional 75-100 years of service, with routine maintenance and repair.

Information and Findings From Pennsylvania's Historic Bridge Inventory

Discussion of Bridge

The 250' long bridge is composed of a hingeless steel thru arch with a concrete jack arch deck. The solid rib, built-up arches taper from 9 1/2' deep at the skewbacks to 4 1/2' at the crown. The bridge was designed by the City of Philadelphia Dept. of Public Works, and it is technologically significant as the earliest steel thru arch bridge in the state. Additionally, it crosses the historic PA RR main line, and it was built as part of the improvements of the historic line. The bridge is historically significant in association with the PRR main line.

Discussion of Surrounding Area

The bridge carries a 2 lane street with sidewalks over 4 electrified tracks and 2 non-electrified tracks of the former Pennsylvania Railroad's main line that PHMC has determined eligible (1993), but none of the bridges were evaluated as part of their determination. The route is now operated by Amtrak. The bridge is south of and not in the Parkside Historic District. The large bridge is the dominant landscape feature in the area.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes


Photo Galleries and Videos: 42nd Street Bridge

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Bridge Photo-Documentation
Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos. This gallery offers photos in the highest available resolution and file size in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
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Bridge Photo-Documentation
Mobile Optimized Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Video
Southbound Crossing of the Bridge
Full Motion Video
Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.
View Video
Northbound Crossing of the Bridge
Full Motion Video
Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.


Maps and Links: 42nd Street Bridge

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