Sixth Street Bridge Is Tumbling Down

About a quarter mile of my drive to work looks like the car chase scene from The French Connection. When US 50 comes out of the Ft. Washington Way trench downtown, it merges with Sixth Street for half a mile in what’s called the Sixth Street Expressway. The expressway ends in complex bridge called the Waldvogel Viaduct or the Sixth Street Viaduct. In actuality, Sixth Street and US 50 go beneath the bridge and become River Road all the way to Indiana. The viaduct looms over the road and the Lower Price Hill neighborhood while carrying traffic to and from Elberon and Warsaw Avenues.

The problem is the viaduct is in a rather decrepit state. Driving under it twice a day, I keep expecting something to fall through my windshield. For local residents, it cuts them off from the Ohio River. So the bridge is being replaced with a series of ramps to Elberon and Warsaw while 50 (and the neighborhood) are exposed to the Ohio River. The new ramps are on modern concrete bridges that have small footprints at ground level.  The approaches are also shorter.

One of the big issues with demolishing the bridge is lead paint. The bridge was built in 1933, when lead paint was the norm. Much of the structure will have to be taken down without stripping the paint to avoid poisoning the surrounding neighborhood. Another problem is Route 50. There are detours that will take motorists to Elberon and Warsaw easily enough. (The Eighth Street Viaduct begins about a mile up Warsaw from the Sixth Street exit.) US 50 cannot be closed. There is no viable alternative to get to the far West Side along the Ohio River. So this July, when the original structure is finally demolished, will get interesting.

I can’t say I’ll actually miss the old viaduct. It’s an interesting structure, but it’s rickety. And there’s something to be said for opening that neighborhood up to the river. There’s already US 50 and the Indiana & Ohio Railroad between Lower Price Hill and the river. The viaduct just exacerbates the issue by making it dark.

So come late August, the old viaduct will be gone. The new structure should be completed by late 2013.


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