‘Fire in the hole!’ Pittsburgh’s Greenfield Bridge is no more

Picture-perfect demolition of failing 93-year old bridge to pave way for new replacement, scheduled to open two years from now.


PITTSBURGH, Dec. 29, 2015 – Governments and citizens alike love to complain about “America’s aging infrastructure.” But funding for repairing or replacing ailing infrastructure has been scarce, particularly since the Great Recession hollowed out the budgets of states and municipalities alike.

But the working life of at least one seriously problematic bridge came to an end Monday as Pittsburgh’s 93-year-old Greenfield Bridge was taken down in seconds in a controlled demolition. According to a video tag by the U.K.-based Telegraph, the bridge had “become a national symbol of America’s failing infrastructure. It will close on October 16th and be demolished in December.”

“Pittsburgh’s Greenfield Bridge had connected Schenley Park to the neighborhood of Greenfield for 94 years by the time city planners decided it was time to topple the bridge to make way for a new one,” noted Popular Mechanics.

The aging structure had been dangerously shedding concrete chunks so frequently that engineers had to construct a second “catch bridge” beneath it to catch the falling debris, temporarily preventing disasters from occurring on the major artery—Pittsburgh’s busy I-376—below.

In preparation for the demolition, I-376 was shut down this past weekend to allow workers to truck in and lay down a “dirt pillow” designed to protect the surface of the interstate highway from serious damage due to the falling debris resulting from the demolition.

By Monday, all preparations—including a virtual train of dumpsters arrayed along the shoulder of I-376 to haul the debris away—were in place. The explosive dynamite charges were carefully set, and the picture-perfect demolition was put into motion as in the video above, attributed to TribLIVE.

According to Popular Mechanics, “a local 47-year-old cafeteria manager won a community raffle that gave her the right to press the plunger and detonate the 1,400 pounds of dynamite that brought down the bridge.”

Local officials expect work on the new replacement bridge to be completed in roughly two years.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17