Bridge Collapse: Four Month Update

It’s been four months since the collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge over Pittsburgh’s scenic Frick Park. I took the above photo at three months, but didn’t have an opportunity to put together an update. This month, I had the opportunity to do the text update (below) on activity across the city and state related to the collapse, but not to go to the site for a photo. So this post combines a 3-month update photo with 4-month update activity and news. If I have missed anything of interest, please share it in the comments and I will try to include it in future updates.

  • The project page now identifies “spring” as the timeline for the start of construction for the new bridge. A May 9th article in the Post-Gazette states that work on the new supports began two weeks prior.
  • An April update to the FAQ on PennDOT’s project page states that it is working with the Office of Public Art to identify artists who could develop aesthetic elements for to-be-determined locations on the bridge.
  • A redacted version of the Fern Hollow Bridge’s September 2021 inspection report was released this month after a right-to-know request. It details corrosion and holes in the bridge and its support structure. (CBS text and video report, Post-Gazette report, WTAE report)
  • An update was issued on May 5, 2022, in the National Transportation Safety Board’s ongoing investigation into the Fern Hollow Bridge collapse. This update describes the ongoing examination and testing of the bridge’s components.
  • The City created a Commission on Infrastructure Asset Reporting and Investment in March 2022, but this commission has not been added yet to the city’s website listing all Boards and Commissions and I have not seen any announcements of any appointments to the new Commission.
  • Mayor Gainey announced in early May the formation of a Bridge Asset Management Program and the search for a manager for the program through an RFP. (City Press Release, May 5, 2022)
  • Port Authority’s bridge has been repaired and is back in service. The stop upgrades to the stations in Beechview and Dormont continue. The Red Line T is therefore still out of service with a bus shuttle running sporadically from Dormont through Beechview to Station Square, leaving the residents in this area waiting for unknown periods of time for transportation to jobs and appointments. (I recently waited for over 1 1/2 hours for the shuttle before giving up and calling an Uber.) There is no posted schedule and transit apps do not indicate that there is this disruption to service.
  • The repairs to the Centre Avenue Bridge and Meadow Avenue Bridge continue with cones marking a narrow road across the Centre Avenue Bridge and the sidewalk on one side closed on the Meadow Avenue Bridge.
  • Pittsburgh’s 30th Street Bridge is expected to undergo repairs starting in 2023. (Tribune Review, February 23, 2022)
  • Pittsburgh’s local robotics companies continue to make progress in the world of bridges with Advanced Construction Robotics’ TyBOT recently completing 101,564 ties of rebar on a Texas bridge. (Pittsburgh Business Times, May 16, 2022)

Additional Resources:

Both PennDOT and the Federal Highway Administration have interactive maps of bridges for the state and country respective, and their inspection statuses.

Previous Fern Hollow Bridge Posts:

Two-Month Update

One-Month Update

Two-Week Update

One-Week Update

Day After

Breaking News

Then & Now: Penn Ave Bridge Ramp

Closing out the East Liberty portion of the Then & Now 10-year anniversary series is the Penn Ave Bridge Ramp. This ramp inspired the second Pittsburgh edition of What is a Bridge?. As best as I can make out from the data on the National Bridge Inventory, the Federal Highway Commission does not consider the ramp a bridge. It is not marked as one of the bridges inventoried by the Commission. And the data for the Penn Avenue Bridge does not include any approach spans. This leaves me wondering who, if anyone, inspects the ramp.

As I cannot find a public source that shares inspection data of the ramp (if it is inspected), its condition rating is anyone’s guess. However, this lack of data may be attributable to the change the ramp underwent in the last ten years. It was originally a ramp for buses to travel from a major bus stop off Penn Avenue onto the East Busway. With the redevelopment of the East Busway Station, this bus stop was redesigned as a regular on-street stop and the ramp was converted to pedestrian access only (second photo set below). The National Bridge Inventory seems to skip over pedestrian bridges as the East Liberty Pedestrian Bridge featured in February is also not listed.

Regardless of the ramp’s condition, its fate now seems tied to the fate of the Penn Avenue Bridge as the gap between the two been filled in with much needed greenspace (first photo set below). The Penn Avenue Bridge was last inspected in May 2020 (which means it probably has been or will be inspected again this month). It received a “poor” condition rating in that inspection – a rating that is worrying for Pittsburghers since the collapse of the “poor” condition Fern Hollow Bridge, despite reassurances from the bridge engineering community that “poor” condition does not necessarily equate to imminent danger.