The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Bridge to Nowhere

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Fort Duquesne Bridge was completed in 1963, but didn’t open for traffic till 1969. The reason for the delay seems to revolve around PennDOT not having secured the real estate that would be required for its off ramps on the north side of the Allegheny River prior to the start of construction. There’s a famous story about a college student who intentionally jumped a station wagon off the open end of the bridge in 1964. Pittsburghers of the time, and some you’ll encounter today, refer to this as the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

Me? I had recently walked the nearby and larger Fort Pitt Bridge, and since Fort Duquesne enjoys a particular prominence due to association with its larger neighbor I thereby figured I’d make an afternoon out of it. This structure looks a great deal like Fort Pitt, and shares its engineering problem solving theory with it – it’s a double decked bowstring arch bridge just like Fort Pitt is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Fort Duquesne feeds into the north western side of the city of Pittsburgh, and allows high speed road traffic (I-279 and PA Route 65) to head north along the Ohio River coast towards wealthy and long established suburbs like Sewickley, or the rapidly growing subdivisions of Cranberry Township.

Speaking from the NYC transplant perspective for a moment; I looked at both of those places before moving out here. Sewickley was too rich for my blood, and reminded me of several wealthy coastal communities in Connecticut and Jersey which I could never afford and which would annoy me daily as a proud child of the working class. Think Westport. Cranberry was cool if you’re worried about school districts, have a young family, and are investing for the long term. Think Melville or Amityville, not Huntington – and sure as hell not Dix Hills – on Long Island. Northern part of Westchester County kind of vibe.

Given that Our Lady and myself are new to the Pittsburgh area, we decided that isolating into such an suburban existence when we’re newly arrived from the concrete devastations and dense urbanity of Home Sweet Hell (NYC) would be a mistake. We chose to land ourselves, thereby, in the South Hills of Pittsburgh and specifically the Borough of Dormont. There’s public transit for when we don’t want to drive here, and there’s still an urban vibe. Cranberry was “car culture” designed, which is fine, but it’s not what we were looking for. Saying that, if you want to buy something, anything, there’s probably somebody in Cranberry Township you’d want to do business with and their shop will have ample free parking available. There’s also likely going to be a Denny’s nearby. Thriving, it is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having driven over this bridge quite a few times now, it was surprising how short a walk this was. Fort Duquesne Bridge is only 430 feet long, not including the approaches, which is half the size of the South Tenth Street Bridge over the Monongahela River discussed last week.

I’ve spent my entire life in a place so unnatural and altered that the term “terra forming” applies, so there’s are many places in Pittsburgh that I just don’t understand. The crazy terrain constantly strikes me. I have a neighbor whose back yard slopes away from the road at something like 25 degrees. His front door is half a story lower than the road. His back door sits at something like 2 stories down.

Have these people never owned a level? Hear of soil grading? Creating a flat surface for the housing slab to be poured on? Filled in the Hudson River to build luxury condos? Proposed extending Manhattan to join with Governor’s Island using landfill in an estuary? Jeez.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The path off of the Fort Duquesne Bridge comes down to earth at Point State Park, which was my turnaround point. One negotiated a brisk scuttle back to the Allegheny River coastline, this time on the south side of the river and along Pittsburgh’s ‘Golden Triangle’ downtown area. A parting shot of the bridge was required, nested in its web of on and off ramps.

Y’know, I’ve been calling it the “Pretty City of Pittsburgh” since coming here in the late 1990’s – back when I was writing and drawing comic books – to promote a series I was doing at a comics convention. In more recent years, all of my experiences in Downtown Pittsburgh have been during the Covid period. Thereby, I haven’t seen much of the hustle and bustle here, except around Court Houses and whenever the Cops or Fire Dept. are getting busy with something. It’s popping down here when there’s a Steelers game, I’ll tell’s ya.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

By this point, one was preoccupied with wonderings about when the next opportunity to demonstrate my robust renal health would present itself, and I was on the lookout for a bathroom while scuttling back towards the safely ensconced Mobile Oppression Platform back at the municipal parking lot with the cool views.

Along the way, I kept on shooting. People I passed by were jogging and bike riding, and others were smoking crack or speed. There are a lot of very skinny people found downtown with sunken eyes, skeletal nasal superstructures, and hollow cheeks in this part of the country. That opioid thing ain’t no joke. It seems that the teeth go first.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m happy to report that the Greyhound Bus Station’s lavatory was cleaner than you’d imagine, and after blowing ballast I negotiated my way back to the Mobile Oppression Platform at the municipal lot with the great views and I was soon driving home. Parking cost me $5, which was an ‘all day’ price.

Tomorrow, something different, at your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 20, 2023 at 11:30 am

2 Responses

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  1. That corduroy landscape. Pray for no snow forever and ever. The following quote is from
    “I used to work retail in college … and I lived on a hill. Went sideways a couple of times which gives you a bit of a jolt, but nothing bad came of it. I found that when I started to go sideways I was able to softly tap my brakes and easily come to a stop.”


    February 20, 2023 at 1:55 pm

  2. Hey, I’m out in State College visiting my daughter and two of her roommates are from Pittsburgh. I’ve been forwarding a few of your posts to alert them to your offerings!


    February 20, 2023 at 10:11 pm

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