The original Third St. Viaduct opened on May 1, 1959 as part of the Ft. Washington Way project. The $6.6 million structure connected Columbia Parkway to the east with the Fort Washington Way "mainline trench" to the west, traveling directly above 3rd St. for a distance of roughly 1,500ft. With closely spaced steel legs straddling the street below and buildings just a few feet to either side of the deck, the viaduct resembled the elevated subway lines of New York and Chicago and Cincinnati's Waldvogel Viaduct two miles west.
The original 3rd St. Viaduct in 1999 -- piers for the replacement
are in place beneath.
In the mid 1970s, the viaduct's eastern half between Eggleston Ave. and Columbia Parkway was demolished to allow construction of I-471 beneath. The eastern section was rebuilt in the style of I-471's elevated sections but painted brown to match the remaining section of the original viaduct, and two ramps connecting the viaduct to the new expressway opened in 1977. The rebuilt section, like the original, did not have emergency shoulders, and the sharply curved ramp to I-471 south required cars to slow to such an extent that they had trouble merging with through traffic on the bridge.
In the 1990s plans were made to replace the entire viaduct, including the section rebuilt in 1977 and its I-471 ramps. The work was originally to take place sometime between 2005 and 2010, but the project was moved forward to coincide with reconstruction of Fort Washington Way, which took place between mid 1998 and late 2000. The viaduct's connections with the expressway would have had to close anyway during much of the expressway reconstruction, so the decision was made to do both projects simultaneously.
This 1999 photo shows the four lane, 2-way section of the 3rd St. Viaduct that was rebuilt in 1977
to accomodate I-471 beneath. It was recently restriped for three westbound-only lanes, and its girders
were repainted green to match the parallel three lane eastbound-only span built in 2000-2001.
Construction on the $32 million replacement began in 1999 and was completed in May 2001. The new 3rd St. Viaduct has six lanes, emergency shoulders, and a two lane ramp to I-471 south (The Big Mac Bridge's emergency shoulders were turned into through lanes at this time). Its completely reconstructed western half is supported by enormous concrete piers and trapazoidal box girders, giving it a somewhat distinctive look. The eastern half shown in the above photo was retained but turned into the westbound lanes while a new eastbound span was built directly next to it. To avoid the problem of building a pier in the narrow space between the I-471 bridge approach ramps similar to the one shown above, trapezoidal box girders span all eight lanes of I-471 without a central pier. The brown girders of the old eastbound lanes were repainted light green to match those of the reconstructed sections of the viaduct. In 2002 the formerly gray girders of the I-471 ramps were repainted yellow, and along with the newly green viaduct have brightened up the area.
The widening of the viaduct and reconstruction of the I-471 ramp on a wider radius was enabled by partial demolition of the old WCI building, which formerly grazed the southern side of the viaduct. Along with its partial demolition, the remainder of the WCI building was gutted and redeveloped as office space.
1. Original 3rd St. Viaduct Photos
2. 3rd St. Viaduct Reconstruction Photos 2000-2001
3. Replacement 3rd St. Viaduct Photos <<<--- New 5/22/03
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