The Fort Duquesne and Fort Pitt bridges are the third pair of bridges to cross the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers near the Point. Fort Duquesne's main span was finished in 1963, but for six years it was "The Bridge to Nowhere," ending in a ramp that did not connect to the North Side. Motorists had to wait even longer, until 1986, for its link to the East Street Valley Expressway.
The bridge got its name from Marquis Michel-Ange Duquesne de Menneville, governor general of New France in 1752-55. His orders were to make peace with local Indians and drive British merchants out of the Ohio Valley. He failed on both counts and was gone by 1758, when Fort Duquesne fell to the British.
Early settlers were content to cross the rivers by boat until the early 1800s, when private contractors began to build toll bridges. The wooden Union Bridge opened in 1875, linking the rival cities of Allegheny and Pittsburgh. Pedestrians paid a penny to cross. Its companion, the first Point Bridge across the Monongahela, opened two years later. Rivermen hated the Union Bridge because it offered only 7 to 9 feet of clearance when the Allegheny was running high.
Its replacement, the Manchester Bridge, opened in 1915 to raves, thanks in part to ornate bronze portals that featured Pittsburgh's coat of arms, pioneer Christopher Gist, Indian chief Guyasuta, a coal miner and a steelworker. The Manchester Bridge and its Mon partner, the second Point Bridge, fell victim to the creation of Point State Park.
In the 1950s, designers of the two proposed tied arch bridges struggled to accommodate both cars and streetcars. Then, when Pittsburgh Railways admitted that it planned to do away with streetcars, engineers came up with an elegant solution: two one-way decks that allow I-279 and I-376 to cross the Point in a single band.
And the Bridge to Nowhere? On Dec. 12, 1964, University of Pittsburgh student Frederick Williams and his station wagon flew 170 feet in the air off the unfinished ramp and landed near the river bank upside down. He emerged shaken but unhurt. Other drivers had to wait five more years to make the trip.