Big Changes Are in Store For Pittsburgh’s Three Sister Bridges

The changes will be most noticeable at night.
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RENDERING COURTESY OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY

The three Sister Bridges, named for Roberto Clemente, Andy Warhol and Rachel Carson, are among Pittsburgh’s most identifiable images, and they’ll soon be getting an upgrade. 

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced that the county will be installing enhanced lighting on the bridges, located at Sixth, Seventh and Ninth streets Downtown. The installation of 1,080 lighting fixtures with 601,440 color LED lights — 360 fixtures and 200,480 lights per bridge — will highlight the spans’ architectural and historical significance, the county says.

The bridges are also of great significance to the city; the Roberto Clemente, Andy Warhol and Rachel Carson bridges carry about 9,000, 6,000 and 10,000 vehicles per day, respectively, across the Allegheny River.

“I’m delighted that we were able to make this project happen and to invest in our beautiful, unique bridges — the only trio of identical bridges in the world — that so many people cross over and see every day,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “To further enhance and highlight these assets also contributes to our investment in beauty, art and quality of life in this community.”

The updates stem from the success of the Energy Flow art installation on the Rachel Carson bridge, which ran from 2016-2018. The exhibit featured wind-powered LED lights that changed color and patterns to represent data about wind speed collected along the Allegheny River. But ever since the art installation closed, county officials have been looking for a way to bring a version of it back in a more permanent way. 

“We were thrilled with the success of Energy Flow on the Rachel Carson Bridge,” said Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, in a statement. “This permanent, expanded installation across the Sister Bridges reaffirms our region’s commitment to implementing vibrant projects that recognize both our rich history and our ingenuity.”

There will also be an opportunity to create and pre-program light shows and specific color schemes to celebrate specific occasions.

The enhanced lighting will be controlled using DMX and wireless technology, as well as fiber optic and ethernet cabling. As for the exact cost of powering the lights? The county says that, to power both the enhanced lighting and street lighting on all three bridges at 100% brightness for 12 hours, the cost would be about $193 per day. But the exact brightness levels for each lighting fixture are still being determined, as is how long each day those fixtures will be used.

This project comes amid the rehabilitation of the Roberto Clemente Bridge, which is being managed by the Allegheny County Public Works. That project will cost about $34 million, with $6 million being put toward enhanced lighting on all three bridges. Funding comes from the Federal Highway Administration (80%), the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (15%) and Allegheny County (5%). 

Installation of the lights is expected to begin this month. It will likely bring periodic closures between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. of the Andy Warhol and Rachel Carson Bridges, in addition to the ongoing closure of the Roberto Clemente Bridge.

“The Sister Bridges mean so much to this region, and it’s hard to overstate just how seriously we take the immense responsibility of maintaining these historic and architecturally significant structures,” said Stephen Shanley, director of Allegheny County Public Works, in a statement. “We are extremely pleased with how this project has come together, and we will always do everything possible to ensure that the bridges’ appearance makes Pittsburghers proud.”

Categories: The 412