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Field Notes:
How Many Bridges in Pittsburgh?

> > Question: "I remember reading years ago that only Venice, Italy had more bridges per square mile (or was it per capita, or was it per some other metric) than Pittsburgh. I've scanned the book "Pittsburgh" by Stefan Lorant as well as the coffee table photo book "Pittsburgh Then and Now" for this information and can find nothing there. I might have read it on a Rand McNally map of Pittsburgh, but I don't recall. I recently mentioned this supposed fact to my present boss' boss (who is Parisian) and he laughed in non-belief, saying the Paris clearly had more bridges than Pittsburgh (or Allegheny County). If you know the facts of this, please let me know and if at all possible, a citation to a source with the raw statistics so I can show my boss' boss the truth."

I think it's possible to get any answer anyone would want depending upon how the question is asked.

And I think the "most bridges" or "how many bridges" questions are unanswerable...or nearly so.

I counted 38 river bridges in Paris.

And although Paris bridges are generally much older, more historic, more picturesque, etc., the majority of them are, however, "plain-old" masonry with little variation or technological uniqueness. I admire the stonework, but they all start to look rather similar. More notable as sculpture than bridge engineering (though I like sculpture too). And most of the remainder are highly-oramented, metal deck arches -- which, again, are rather similar among them. [The city certainly has Pittsburgh beat in terms of age. 1850 in Paris, is relatively speaking, "new"; Pont Neuf (i.e. "New Bridge" was started in 1578). Pittsburgh gets sentimental about its oldest standing river crossing, the 1881 Smithfield Street Bridge.]

The variations of design and technological advancements evidenced within Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are often noted as reasons for this area's fame and use as the site of bridge engineer's conventions. Even the famous bridges of New York City and elsewhere in the US, were often designed by those who had worked in Pittsburgh previously (Roebling, Lindenthal, Wernwag, Cooper, George Richardson, Ferris, etc.).

Pittsburgh has 30 river bridges with an additional 29 river bridges within Allegheny County for a total of 59. Then you may start to add the many others which cross streams, ravines, roads, railroads, etc. The typically cited figure of over 2,000 in Allegheny County apparently doesn't include railroad bridges owned by the railroads, and only includes those over 8 feet in length.

As I say in my website introduction: "Other locations may have greater relief, but they are not as heavily urbanized; other cities may be more densely built, but they will tend to be on gentler terrain."

Lonely Planet (travel guide) states: "Venice is built on 117 small islands and has some 150 canals and 409 bridges (only three of which cross the Grand Canal)." [They're building a fourth bridge in 2004.]

Pittsburgh easily beats 409. And 4.

The Association for Bridge Design and Construction (ABCD) only counts the non-railroad bridges over 20 feet in length and Pittsburgh still comes out on top.

Other contenders? Maybe New York City.

And Pittsburgh has no moveable bridges...unlike Chicago.

Google "bridges how.many" and you'll find Pittsburgh is one of the few places anyone's got answers for.

Submit info or inquiry - share some facts or ask a question.

Page created: Page created: 11-Aug-2004
Last modified: 11-Aug-2004