We tend to take bridges for granted in Western Pennsylvania. That is, until the span is closed.
Next year should be interesting for people who use the Sewickley Bridge, as PennDOT (finally!) will rehabilitate the span.
But until then, let’s celebrate the Sewickley Bridge, which turns 108 years old on Sept. 19. The current bridge that’s standing is not 108 years old. The second Sewickley Bridge opened Oct. 21, 1981.
And, as I documented in a 2011 story for the Sewickley Herald, the bridge almost didn’t make it into the 1980s. PennDOT wanted to tear it down following the recent opening of the Interstate 79 Neville Island Bridge.
But Sewickley Valley residents, led by Gloria Berry, campaigned and the bridge was saved.
A tugboat crashed into the new I-79 span, leaving no crossing along the Ohio River for miles.
“When they closed the bridge, it was like big red letters — emergency,” Berry told me for the 2011 Herald story. “There was no crossing the Ohio River from McKees Rocks to Ambridge.”
The bridge is an important piece of the culture of Sewickley Valley and the Moon Township/Coraopolis area, too.
“Both sides of the river are connected economically, medicaHy, through education, religion and socially. It was a lifeline for so many people on both sides of the Ohio River,” Berry said.
At the time, PennDOT said about 19,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily.
Read more about the Sewickley Bridge in this 100th anniversary story I did in 2011 for the Sewickley Herald. You can search the Sewickley Herald archives on the Sewickley Public Library website.
Note: I worked at the Sewickley Herald from about 2007 through August 2018.