South Twenty-Second or Brady Street Bridge
(now the Birmingham Bridge)

The Brady Street Bridge

The Brady Street Bridge, officially known as the South Twenty-Second Street Bridge, spanned the Monongahela River between the neighborhoods of Soho on the northern shore and Birmingham on the southern shore. Built in 1896, the bridge was in service for eighty-one years until being replaced by the modern Birmingham Bridge in 1977.

Brady Street Bridge (1896-1977)

In the early nineteenth century, the towns of Soho, on the north bank of the Monongahela, two miles downriver from Pittsburgh, and the town of Birmingham on the south bank, were settled. After annexation by the city in the mid-1860s, this location became an area of heavy industry and workers' housing. The sprawling Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation had factories and mills built along both shores.

For many years, the South Side was served by only one bridge, a covered timber tool-span located at South Tenth Street. There was also a ferry crossing located at South Twenty-Second Street. On May 10, 1894, City Council authorized a $1,500,000 bond issue for construction of a toll-free bridge over the Monongahela River. It was designed to link Brady Street, at it's intersection with Forbes Avenues on the northern side, with South 22nd Street on the south side. It was built by the Schultz Bridge Company.

The Brady Street Bridge
The toll-free South 22nd Street Bridge soon became known as the Brady Street Bridge.

The South 22nd Street Bridge was dedicated and opened to traffic on March 25, 1896. The length of the entire bridge, including the steel viaducts on either side, was 2,530 feet. The main channel span was 520 feet, with 260 foot flanking spans on each end. The road surface had space for two lines of streetcar tracks, a paved roadway and eight foot walkways on each side. Because of it's northern link with Brady Street, the bridge became known locally as the Brady Street Bridge, a name that has lasted to this day.

The Brady Street Bridge
The bridge was closed in 1909 for replacement of the piers, which had settled and compromised structural stablilty.

Shortly after the bridge was completed, cracks developed in the masonry of the piers. The northern pier settled sixteen inches and caused a closure. In 1909, the bridge was raised, the piers rebuilt, and the old piers removed. The repair gave new life to the span, and it served for over fifty years before aging and increasing vehicular traffic rendered it obsolete.

The Brady Street Bridge - 1910
A 1910 scene along the Brady Street Bridge, looking across towards the South Side.

In 1963, trolley cars were forbidden to use the bridge because of instability in the floor system. Because of rapid deterioration the bridge was closed for repairs in September 1968. The span was re-opened again in October 1969. In the meantime, the concrete piers for an eventual replacement bridge were being constructed next to the old span.

The Brady Street Bridge
The Brady Street Bridge carrying traffic over the Monongahela River in the mid-1950s.

The Brady Street Bridge remained in operation until 1977. The new Birmingham Bridge (aka Brady Street Bridge) was opened in September of that year. The 19th century South 22nd Street Bridge (aka Brady Street Bridge) was demolished on May 29, 1978. The railings of the structure were recovered and built into the design of the Port Authority's Station Square light rail passenger station.

Birmingham Bridge (1977-present)

In the early-1960s, PennDot had plans for the construction of an inner-city belt highway, the Mon Valley Expressway. A new bridge was needed to carry the highway across the Monongahela River. As architects designed a replacement the aging Brady Street Bridge, they planned to incorporate the new bridge into the proposed expressway. The location of the span would be next to the old bridge.

The Brady Street Bridge
The Brady Street Bridge stands next to the replacement Birmingham Bridge in 1977.

The new Brady Street Bridge was designed to handle the expressway traffic. Construction on the bridge piers began in the late-1960s, then was halted for several years while politicians debated both the expressway plans and the need for a new bridge. By 1976, the expressway designs were put on hold, but the construction of the new bridge was restarted.

The Brady Street Bridge
Construction of the new Brady Street Bridge superstructure began in 1976 and was completed a year later.

When the bridge was dedicated, on September 2, 1977, the name of the 1662 foot span had been changed to the Birmingham Bridge. Built with the idea of being linked to a future expressway, the six-lane bridge, with dead end connecting ramps, seems out-of-place.

The Brady Street Bridge
The Birmingham Bridge (aka Brady Street Bridge) was built to handle expressway traffic.

The bridge links Forbes and Fifth Avenue on the northern side with East Carson Street on the Southside. Although the bridge is built over the Penn-Lincoln Parkway, there are no connecting ramps. For reasons that still baffle travelers, access to and from the bridge is often a complicated series of twists and turns. The design is not very compatible with the existing road networks.

The Brady Street Bridge
The super-sized bridge carries traffic from the Southside to an intersection with Fifth Avenue on the northern end.

Despite these design inconsistencies, the bridge is still a magnificent structure, looming large over the Monongahela River. Below the bridge, on the southern shore, Riverfront Park stretches along the riverbank from South 18th Street to near the Hot Metal Bridge and the South Side Works. This strip of greenway between the CSX railroad and the river features willow-shaded park areas and a public boat launching ramp. It is also a great place to stop and admire the architectural giant known locally as the "green elephant."

The Brady Street Bridge
The Birmingham Bridge is a magnificent structure dubbed the "green elephant" by the local population.

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