A week ago yesterday, an important arterial bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh – on a day that President Biden was already scheduled to be in town to talk about infrastructure. Fortunately, while several vehicles, including a bus, were on the Forbes Ave bridge when it fell into Frick Park’s Fern Hollow, no one died. Several people were injured. Some were treated on site and many were taken to the hospital.
The bridge was one of many in the region that are known to be structurally deficient. The City Controller Michael E. Lamb told the Pittsburgh Business Times that “Allegheny County has more structurally deficient bridges than any other county in the nation.” President Biden said in his visit that there are 3,300 bridges in Pennsylvania “just as old and . . . just as decrepit” as the Fern Hollow Bridge. (Pittsburgh Business Times) An editorial in the print edition of this week’s Pittsburgh Business Times noted that the estimated cost to fix all the bridges in Pennsylvania would be $20.7 billion, however, the total allocation of bridge repair funds to the state from the infrastructure bill is $1.63 billion. This is a drop in the bucket of what is needed to maintain the long neglected infrastructure of the region, state, and country. However, it is a drop we didn’t have before. The editorial ends with a call to state and local authorities to make bridge repair a higher priority as “We were lucky with this collapse that no one was killed, but we likely won’t be so lucky next time. Let this serve as a wake-up call.”
There has been a flurry of activity in the wake of the collapse:
- Mayor Ed Gainey signed a Declaration of Disaster Emergency for the bridge collapse. (City Press Release, Pittsburgh Business Times article, Post-Gazette article)
- Governor Tom Wolf also signed a proclamation of disaster emergency for the county. (Governor’s Proclamation, Pittsburgh Business Times article)
- A National Transportation Safety Board investigation is under way supported by the City. (Tribune Review article, Post-Gazette article)
- Fire Chief Darryl Jones was appointed emergency management coordinator. (Post-Gazette article)
- An observation area for the nebby (aka curious) was set-up then closed permanently two days later. (Tribune Review article, Post-Gazette article) (see also the Post-Gazette on the opening of the observation area and the popularity of the observation area in the two days it was open)
- Mayor Gainey along with Councilman Corey O’Connor announced legislation to create The Commission on Infrastructure Asset Reporting and Investment. (City Press Release, Pittsburgh Business Times article, Tribune Review article, Post-Gazette article)
- Federal funds up to $25.3 million have been “made available” for the repair [replacement] of the bridge. (City Press Release, Pittsburgh Business Times article, Tribune Review article, Post-Gazette article)
- The team to design and rebuild the bridge was selected. (Post-Gazette article, Tribune Review article)
- Mayor Gainey nominated a new Director of Public Safety as part of his rolling director nominations. (Tribune Review article, Post-Gazette article)
- The Port Authority of Allegheny County closed one of its bridges until repairs can be made because “a portion of the bridge had shifted.” (Pittsburgh Business Times article)
- Allegheny County announced that it has plans to resolve all of its 27 “poor condition” bridges. (Tribune Review article)
- PennDOT plans to reinspect all bridges of the same design. (Post-Gazette article)
- A national study was released identifying 43,000 “poor condition” bridges around the country, with Pennsylvania the state with the second highest number of these bridges. (Post-Gazette article)
On a side note, President Biden said he hadn’t known before that Pittsburgh has more bridges than any other city in the world (Pittsburgh Business Times). While I have written about this claim before, I recently discovered that my original source for the number of bridges in the city has some errors (including at least one bridge counted twice due to the renaming of the street carried by that bridge), which has shaken my faith in the claim as a few errors like that would put Venice back in the lead.
we dont have to be the city with the most bridge in the world. we can just be a city with lots of bridge. and a lot of bridges in poor condition. taxing upmc, the steelrs and the churches around here would easily fund the bridge repairs.
Good point. Whether or not we have the most bridges, we have far too many in poor condition.
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