The Fort Duquesne Bridge now serves as a connection between Downtown and the North Side, spanning the Allegheny River. But that wasn’t always the case.
The bridge’s main span was finished in 1963. However, according to an article in The Pittsburgh Press, “red tape and governmental disagreement” kept it from being completed for several more years, earning it the nickname “The Bridge to Nowhere.”
“Police estimated the uncompleted bridge stands about 100 feet over the Allegheny River while the dropoff is about 90 feet from the shoreline — measured straight ahead.”
To prevent people from driving across the bridge and plunging to their death, barricades were set up at the Downtown side of the bridge and at the end of the span.
But that didn’t stop a daredevil Pitt student from attempting a “flight” from the end of the bridge to the North Shore.
On December 12, 1964, Frederick Williams, 21, of Basking Ridge, N.J. — a senior majoring in chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh — crashed through the barriers and raced across the span, his station wagon flying through space and landing upside down at the water’s edge.
Mr. Williams pulled himself from the wreckage, “shaken but unscathed.” He was taken to Allegheny General Hospital, where he was examined and released. According to the Pittsburgh Press article, he offered no explanation for his historic leap.
In the wake of the incident, the State Highways Department vowed to replace the broken barricades.
John S. Yard, assistant district engineer for the department, seemed dumbfounded.
“We didn’t think it was possible to do anything like that,” he said.
For more on the Fort Duquesne Bridge and to explore the history of other bridges along the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, check out the Post-Gazette’s interactive, with videos and photos from our archives.