Padlocks starting to be removed from Roberto Clemente Bridge

PITTSBURGH — Over the years, people secured locks on the Sister Bridges in Downtown Pittsburgh. The thought is if couples lock a padlock and throw away the key, it symbolizes locking their love forever. The Roberto Clemente Bridge collected about 11,000 padlocks, but now, these padlocks will serve a new purpose.

“This looks pretty authentic,” said Industrial Arts Workshop Executive Director Tim Kaulen. “This could be 50 years old.”

Each padlock holds meaning and symbolizes a feeling in time.

“There’s a story with this structure, and there’s a story with each one of these locks,” said Allegheny County Public Works Director Stephen Shanley.

Dozens of love stories and stories of perseverance and hope hang on the bridge and that’s not the end of their stories. Instead, they’ll begin a new chapter.

“Artifacts from the bridge that will ultimately turn into sculptural material to tell a new story,” said Kaulen.

Crews started cutting the locks off the bridge for the $34 million rehabilitation project. As the locks come off, they’ll be donated to the Industrial Arts Workshop at Hazelwood. Over the summer, 10 high school students will be responsible for creating sculptures out of these locks.

“It’s a great responsibility to try to represent the ideas of so many people who we don’t really know,” said Kaulen.

You’ll eventually be able to see what the students end up creating out of these locks. The artwork will be on display to the public. An exact time and place for the artwork has not been released just yet.

Once all the locks are removed, the handrails will also be taken down so they can be cleaned and repainted. The Department of Public Works closed the bridge last month for all the improvements and repairs. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.