The demolition of this bridge represents nothing short one of the greatest failures of our transportation funding system ever witnessed. It was an absolute complete failure in sound fiscal responsibility, commitment to history, and even a failure to protect the safety of citizens. Rather than spending money on the maintenance and preservation of a historic structure, taxpayer dollars were instead completely wasted in numerous ways. There was substantial cost to demolition of this bridge, the main event being an implosion. Moreover, the city had to pay several nearby residents $200 a day for having to make them move out until demolition was complete.
This is an example of how our
transportation funding system is one of the most inefficient and broken systems
in the country. President Obama wants to reduce the deficit? Make the matching
federal grant for repair projects greater than the matching grant for
replacement projects. Replacement funding is easier to receive and greater in
quantity than repair money. So what do agencies do? Let the bridge rot until its
about to collapse and kill people. Why not arrange transportation funding so
that agencies are rewarded for maintaining and making repairs to bridges, rather
than rewarded for unacceptable lack of upkeep of a bridge. If this bridge had
been maintained in decades past, the bridge could be open and functional,
history could be saved, and homeowners would not be scared a bridge was going to
fall on them. And in addition money would be saved. Total money costs are higher
for replacement, but from a local jurisdiction its cheaper to replace because
the Federal government will throw in a bunch of money.
The waste of history, materials, infrastructure function, and money is unfathomable with this corrupt and broken system of funding. The promotion of replacement and discouragement of maintenance is also a serious safety issue that is putting people at risk as the Davis Road Bridge has proven. The Davis Road Bridge proves that this funding system must end NOW.
This bridge was an extremely unusual and significant historic structure. It was an old and relatively small arch-shaped example of a pin-connected cantilever deck truss bridge. As such, it was significant for this unusual and early design. Extremely few examples of cantilever bridges remain that utilize pins as the primary/majority connection type. It had been altered when many members and parts of the bottom chord were incased in unsightly modern plate steel. However, the original parts appeared to remain under this plate steel, suggesting that a properly-executed restoration that would have restored this bridge, perhaps for pedestrian use, would have been able to remove these and bring the bridge back to its original level of integrity and beauty. Pittsburgh, the "City of Bridges" and the "Steel City" would have done well to consider the proper maintenance and also a full restoration of this rather unusual example of bridge technology that was fabricated by a prominent local company that was prolific on a national scale.
The Pennsylvania Historic Bridge Inventory gives this bridge an unfair review, because it fails to acknowledge that many of the alterations could be removed as part of a restoration, which would increase the historic integrity of the structure. Given the unusual, pin-connected cantilever design and lattice floor beams, this bridge should be considered historic, despite the alterations. The HistoricBridges.org HSR rating correctly reflects this fact. The Historic Bridge Inventory's non-historic finding is only further discredited by the fact that the Historic American Engineering Record documented the bridge. One might suspect that perhaps HAER documented the bridge prior to alteration, but this was not the case. Either way, it seems morally wrong to reward cities that damage the integrity of their historic bridges through insensitive alteration by delisting a bridge from a historic bridge list, which then frees said city from any barriers to further alteration or demolition. Certainly, alterations are something to consider when weighing the feasibility of restoration and the value of a particular structure in a comparative study. However, in the case of Davis Avenue, the structure itself was sufficiently rare, and the alterations also appear removable, thus, the bridge should still have been considered historic.
This bridge's railings and lighting were designed and built by Chester B. Albree. An 1891 advertisement is shown below.
Information and Findings From Pennsylvania's Historic Bridge Inventory
Discussion of Bridge
The 399' long, pin-connected, 5 span, Pratt deck truss bridge has short stringer spans between the main span and approach spans that correspond in shape to the topography of the ravine the bridge crosses. The bridge has uncommon detailing to some of its members, like the lattice web floor beams, but it was altered in 1986 when it was strengthened. Half of the lower chords were strengthened by additional material encasing the original, and 8 of the built up verticals were strengthened. The cantilevered sidewalks are finished with handsome, wrought iron railings. Although a long bridge, within the local context, which is noted for its handsome and innovative, late-19th century arch and truss bridges, it is not historically or technologically significant. It has been altered, and it has no innovative details. The deck truss was a common bridge type for ravine crossings throughout the last quarter of the 19th century.
Discussion of Surrounding Area
The Davis Avenue Bridge carries a 2 lane city street and 2 sidewalks over a 2 lane city street in a residential area of Pittsburgh's north side near Riverview Park. The houses in the hollow date to mid- and late-19th century, but they are highly altered. Brighton Heights, the neighborhood at the deck level, is later, but it is not distinguished, and there are is later infill housing. The areas do not have the integrity or architectural significance to be a historic district.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: No
This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Arch Lattice Railing
This historic bridge has been demolished. This map is shown for reference purposes only.
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