Renaming 16th Street Bridge for historian David McCullough advanced

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Allegheny County Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko will push for final action Wednesday on an ordinance to rename Pittsburgh's 16th Street Bridge in honor of historian David McCullough.

Although located in the city, the span across the Allegheny River is owned by the county.

A special review committee, headed by Thomas E. Donatelli, a former county public works director, recommended last month that the bridge be named for Mr. McCullough, a Pittsburgh native who speaks often about his local roots.

Council will formally accept the advisory report of the renaming committee at its business meeting Wednesday. The agenda for that session also calls for the introduction of legislation to carry out the recommendation. Standard procedure would be to send the proposed ordinance to a council committee for review, but Ms. Danko, D-Regent Square, said the measure already had been discussed at great length.

Ms. Danko, council President Charles Martoni, D-Swissvale, and Councilman Bob Macey, D-West Mifflin, are sponsors of the bill. She said she would try to round up additional co-sponsors for the measure with a eye to taking final action Wednesday.

Mr. McCullough will turn 80 on July 7. His birthday would be an ideal time for the county to honor the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Ms. Danko has said.

"Mr. McCullough is a world-renowned writer who always mentions that he came from Pittsburgh," Mr. Macey said.

The county's administrative code calls for the county manager to appoint a committee to review and make recommendations on all renaming proposals. "It is cumbersome, but it shouldn't be too easy," Ms. Danko said. "You have to build a consensus."

Mr. McCullough has won two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards, the Francis Parkman Prize and a 2006 Presidential Medal of Freedom. He may be best known as the narrator for the Ken Burns documentary series "The Civil War" and as the long-time host of the PBS history program "American Experience." "The Greater Journey," his most recent work, is about young Americans who traveled to Paris in the 19th century to learn about new discoveries and trends in science and art.

Mr. Donatelli, now president of the Engineers' Society of Western Pennsylvania and a vice president at Michael Baker Corp., noted that engineering projects had been at the heart of several of Mr. McCullough's books. They include the Brooklyn Bridge ("The Great Bridge"), the Panama Canal ("The Path Between the Seas") and the failure of the South Fork Dam ("The Johnstown Flood"). "His interest in the engineering feats ... has been informative and inspiring to the many readers of his literary works, and has portrayed the importance of engineers in society," Mr. Donatelli wrote.

The proposal to name a bridge for Mr. McCullough was launched more than a year ago by history buff Michael Connors of Chalfant. Post-Gazette columnist Brian O'Neill suggested the 16th Street Bridge as an appropriate structure, and Mr. Connors backed that idea.

If the 16th Street Bridge is renamed, it would be the fourth county span to honor a famous person with strong Pittsburgh ties. The county's "three sisters" bridges, crossing the Allegheny River at Sixth, Seventh and Ninth streets, are named, respectively, for baseball great Roberto Clemente, artist Andy Warhol and environmentalist Rachel Carson.

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Len Barcousky: or 412-263-1159.


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