The Great Greenfield Bridge Implosion Of 2015

Achievement: #89. Watch the Greenfield Bridge Implosion

Well, I lied. There is one final 2015 post that we must bring you, before we usher in the new year and a new 101.

Because one of the last things we did in 2015 can never again be replicated:

Greenfield Bridge Implosion
We watched the Greenfield Bridge Implosion.

Okay, for us Greenfielders, this was a really, really big deal. Here’s what happened:

Greenfield Bridge Implosion
The Greenfield Bridge (born the Beechwood Boulevard Bridge) stretched above the Parkway East, connecting our fair town of Greenfield with the lovely, almost-as-fair Park of Schenley. And it was falling down.

Like, for real. Like, they put a bra on the bridge to catch the bits that were falling down, but it wasn’t enough, so they built a smaller bridge under the bra-equipped bridge to catch the bits that were falling down and it still wasn’t enough. It was so not-enough that it was featured on John Oliver’s special about how infrastructure is basically just a mess in this country.

Yes, Greenfield was HBO-famous for a minute.

So, once all possible ideas about how to save this lovely bridge were exhausted, the Pittsburgh Powers that Be decided to just blow the thing up and build a new one in its place.

Greenfield Bridge Implosion
This process began in October, when they had an official “Rock the Blues Away” Bridge Closing party (which of COURSE we attended).

Greenfield Bridge Implosion
This marked the night when the bridge was shut down to vehicular traffic forevermore, and we got to wander around on it and take nostalgic photos and listen to Joe Grushecky and even play giant middle-of-the-road bowling (at least, that last part, if you were a little kid).

And then we waited. And watched, as the bridge closed to pedestrians as well. And then as parts of it began to be removed. And then, we watched the calendar and the weather, waiting for the news that the bridge implosion would go off as planned (because some of us had to use vacation days from work for this event).

Greenfield Bridge Implosion
The night before the implosion, we went scouting for sites. It became very obvious that it is a lot harder to see the Greenfield Bridge from anywhere but the Parkway than we realized.

Greenfield Bridge Implosion
However, the city had prepared for us weird celebrators, and had designated a viewing area ‘through the trees’ in Schenley Park. They installed these nifty wayfinder signs all over town to direct everyone to that area.

And after carefully consulting maps and comparing them to our field notes, we decided that this was going to be our best option, too.

Because I am a paranoid sort, I worried that we would be caught up in a crowd or miss a view of the implosion. So, I set double alarms, packed up my things the night before, and decided we would get up at 5:30am to arrive hopefully around 6. (The implosion was set for 9am).

It was COLD the morning of the blast, and felt even more so, because we had just come off of some crazily warm Christmas days (like in the 60s on Christmas, which I think was even warmer than the year we lived in Los Angeles at Christmas). I stopped and got a big crate of coffee and some bagels from my favorite girls at The Bagel Factory (who were, and always are, so sweet, and reminded me that I had forgotten to bring blankets! thanks ladies!). So, we ran home, got the blankets, and raced back to the park.

We were basically the first people to arrive at Schenley Park, besides the news crews and city workers who were setting up the barricades. Turns out, not everyone thought it was necessary to get there before dawn.

Greenfield Bridge Implosion
Michael stayed in the car to keep warm, and I walked around to scope the area and find the best place to set up our equipment. I also got this killer shot of the city before dawn. See, it pays to be up early!

In the end, I found a green trash can that appeared to be next to the most prime implosion-watching real estate, so I made a mental note and went and sat in the car with Michael until the sun came up.

Greenfield Bridge Implosion
And once it was dawn, and I was certain we weren’t going to be asked to leave the premises because of the posted park rules, we set up our station. Yes, of course Bear came with us to watch!

Greenfield Bridge Implosion
Basically, we spent the next hour drinking coffee and meeting our fellow Yinzers who had come out for this event. There were just a handful of us at the start, but more and more people began to fill in (and a fellow photographer and I had to politely police the area in front of our setups to keep our shots clear).

Greenfield Bridge Implosion
Mostly we just huddled together for warmth and talked about those bums the Stillers and wondered how many pounds of dynamite they stuck in those tiny holes in the bridge and postulated that this might all turn out like Exploding Whale: Bridge Edition.

But before we knew it, the time was there! 9am!

….Except that it wasn’t really 9am.

Greenfield Bridge Implosion
The implosion was delayed, but it was unclear for how many minutes, or why, except that it might have had something to do with people sneaking around in the woods too close to the blast site. No one was telling any of us any updates, and we weren’t sure if we could hear the horns or sirens that were supposed to alert us to the start of the blast. Basically, we spent the next 15 or so minutes checking in with my dad, who, with my mum and our dog, was watching the implosion on TV from the comfort of the house.

And then…


Greenfield Bridge Implosion
The mighty Greenfield Beechwood Boulevard Bridge was merely a cloud of dust.

Not as loud as we had all been expecting, and the dust really didn’t travel all that far. But it felt bittersweet in the moment: exciting, but also sad, that we hadn’t all been able to save the bridge without just, you know, dropping it onto a pile of dirt on the Parkway East.

Greenfield Bridge Implosion
After we got over the momentary shock that – omg, yes, that just happened, and omg, yes, it actually WORKED! – it was time to take one farewell photo with the blast site. (That’s our lovely friend Katherine with us, who braved the cold and the possibility of loud sounds and being covered in bridge bone dust by our sides.)

Greenfield Bridge Implosion
We handed out some leftover cookies to our fellow Yinzers (one of whom sang a thank you song about it, nice touch), and then we said a last farewell, looked longingly at the spot our bridge had just recently been, and headed home.

This was my first bridge implosion, but I think it is safe to say, it was well worth the vacation day, and I will request one again in a heartbeat if any other bridges in our City Of Them need to go down.

2 Comments

Filed under #89, #89-15, bridges, greenfield, john oliver, things blowing up

2 Responses to The Great Greenfield Bridge Implosion Of 2015

  1. Woubbie

    Nice prayer. Glad there were no exploding whale parts flying. (I heard no sirens…. Did they blow them?)

  2. Conte

    An exciting event! I hate to see old things blown up and when they blew up Three Rivers Stadium, I cried. Your film was so cute! Glad you made the event and were not covered in dust.

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