Brain Fart: Hot Metal Baby!

Yesterday the Dirt Rag staff joined about 400 other cyclists, pedestrians and rollerbladers to open a vital cycling link in Pittsburgh that has been under construction since 2003. Hooray! For the Hot Metal Bridge! What is this molten steel-named span all about? Well, the Hot Metal Bridge was once a train bridge that actually transported 3,000 degree hot metal in ladle cars from the Soho and Eliza blast furnaces to the steel processing mills on the opposite side of the Monongahela River. Now the rehabilitated truss bridge connects two paved rail-trails and spans 1,052 feet across the river with an ample 14-foot-wide concrete deck and a beautiful view of downtown Pittsburgh from the east. It also goes over a busy 4-lane wide 2nd Avenue and is the alternative to cycling across its sister bridge that has no sidewalk and barley room for a car to pass a cyclist.
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Where once was a steel mill is now occupied by an REI, a movie theater with an awesome Monday special, a grassy square with live music, clothing chains, apartments and new homes. This 11.6 million dollar bridge not only allows me to cycle 10-miles from my house off of main roads to the south side, which is a strip of bars, restaurants and tattoo joints, but it also connects Pittsburgh to the 150-mile-long Great Allegheny Passage that expands to Cumberland, Maryland where it is joined to the 182-mile long C&O Canal trail that continues to D.C. That’s 332-miles of multi-use-trail free from vehicle usage. Awesome!

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The phrase I heard repeated over and over yesterday after the mayor cut the ribbon and a swarm of folks meandered smoothly in the 40-degree weather was “It doesn’t even feel like this is Pittsburgh!” Well, it is. Welcome to the revitalized Steel City and its network of rails-to-trails that follow the three rivers, which surround this hilly city. Not only are we a drinking town with a football problem (Go Steelers!), but a city with at least five institutions of higher education, hundreds of miles of off-road trails within pedaling distance of the city, home to the best mountain biking magazine in the world and a community of outdoors people that give a damn.

If you are coming out this weekend for Dirt Rag’s annual Punk Bike Enduro December 2nd (and you should) I highly recommend taking a spin across the bridge and grabbing a beer or slice on the opposite end. It’s a great feeling. –Shannon Mominee

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