3IYT: How the Olgiati Bridge got its name - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

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3IYT: How the Olgiati Bridge got its name

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Opening day of Olgiati Bridge 1959 Opening day of Olgiati Bridge 1959
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

The Olgiati Bridge, built in the 1950s and 1960s, covers 2.3 miles of Highway 27. Reconstruction is currently underway to address safety and capacity issues to better serve the nearly 70,000 vehicles that travel this route every day.

But what is an Olgiati? The question is actually, who is an Olgiati.

Peter Rudolf Olgiati was born in Grundy County in 1901.

In 1947, Olgiati ran for the office of mayor and was elected as mayor of Chattanooga. In fact, Olgiati was a three-term mayor. 

The 1950's ushered in interstate highway construction across the nation, and Olgiati felt Chattanooga's close proximity to big cities in every direction should make his city a priority. Chattanooga became the first of Tennessee's major cities to have a completed interstate system. Then came the bridge.

But the bridge did not come without controversy.  

The Cedar Street Bridge, as it was known at first, was sorely needed.  Since 1949, there was talk of a third downtown span to relieve congestion on the overcrowded Market and Walnut Street bridges. Despite some opposition, portions of the hill were removed to make way for a new highway and bridge. More than a thousand buildings would have to be torn down, and 1,400 families would have to be relocated.  The site was approved in 1954, and the four-year project was underway a year later.

Shortly after the bridge opened to traffic in 1959, it was officially named in honor of the mayor, who was at the peak of his political power.  He had just won his third term, and had his eyes on a bigger prize: governor of Tennessee.  He ran against Frank Clement in 1962, and lost.

In the 1980s, after the death of his wife Mae, Olgiati moved to Charleston, South Carolina to be near his daughter Virginia.  It was there he died in 1989, eighteen days shy of his 88th birthday.  He is buried at Chattanooga's Forest Hills Cemetery.

Information provided by: Channel 3's David Carroll:  Read more about it HERE.

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