This week, the Department of Public Works announced that the bridge, which extends from Sixth Street Downtown, will be closed to vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic at 6 a.m. on Mon., Feb. 14. According to a press release, the closure will continue through December 2023.
Originally, the reopening was tentatively set for fall 2023.
The closure will allow for a $34.4 million bridge rehabilitation project to take place, which would include repairs to the structural steel, the concrete/masonry substructure, and the stairs on the downtown side. The concrete deck and sidewalks, expansion dams, electric and gas utility lines under the bridge, and navigational lighting will be replaced, along with the street lighting to resemble the bridge's "original appearance from the 1920s."
The work will also include improving drainage, repainting the bridge and handrails, and installing new posts to separate the bicycle lanes from the vehicle lanes.
The effort is part of a years-long Sister Bridges rehabilitation project, which set out to do major maintenance on three major bridges connecting the city's Downtown and North Side neighborhoods. Previously, the Andy Warhol Bridge and the Rachel Carson Bridge both saw a series of repairs.
“The Clemente Bridge is an iconic symbol of Pittsburgh, and one that visitors and residents alike are familiar, but it too needs some love,” says Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “This significant infrastructure investment will complete the rehabilitation of the third Sister Bridge and also allows the opportunity for a unique, sustainable reuse of the many locks that have been added to the bridge over the years.”
The announcement happens to come just days after the city committed to looking at infrastructure improvements in the wake of the Fern Hollow Bridge collapse over Frick Park.
The project will also see the removal of the approximately 11,000 so-called "love locks" placed by visitors along the bridge. The locks will be donated to the Industrial Arts Workshop of Hazelwood to become part of a future public art project.
For the future, Public Works requests that residents and visitors stop placing locks on the Roberto Clemente Bridge and other county-owned bridges, as they can "damage bridge railings, add extra weight to the railings than they were designed to hold, and are expensive and time-consuming to remove in bulk."
“The Roberto Clemente Bridge is one of the most beautiful bridges and locations in the country, so we understand why couples might want to symbolize their love by placing a lock there,” says Public Works Director Stephen Shanley. “That being said, our mission is to protect this important public asset from damage and to keep it as beautiful as possible. The locks make that job more difficult and costly.”
During the Roberto Clemente Bridge construction, outbound vehicle traffic will be detoured using Fort Duquesne Boulevard, the Andy Warhol Bridge, Sandusky Street, East Lacock Street, and Federal Street.
Inbound vehicle traffic will be detoured using East General Robinson Street, Sandusky Street, the Andy Warhol Bridge, and Fort Duquesne Boulevard. Bicycle and pedestrian traffic will be detoured using Fort Duquesne Boulevard, the Andy Warhol Bridge, and Isabella Street.
The Three Rivers Heritage Trail will also remain open near the bridge — on the North Side and Downtown — for the duration of the project.