Bridge Collapse: Two Month Update

It’s been two months since the collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge over Pittsburgh’s scenic Frick Park. Below is a summary of updates from across the city and state on activity related to the collapse. If I have missed anything of interest, please share it in the comments and I will try to include it in future updates.

  • As of March 8, construction is expected to start in April on the new bridge.
  • The design of the new bridge was released causing chagrin among neighbors, urban designers, accessibility advocates, mobility advocates, and users of the park. The only people I have heard directly or indirectly say only positive things about the new bridge design are engineers (though some engineers also have concerns).
  • The Pittsburgh Business Times compiled a detailed special report on bridge conditions in the region and what is needed to repair them. Allegheny County has more bridges than any other county in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Statewide, Allegheny County ranks 37 out of 67 for the most poor condition bridges and 44 out of 67 for the most good condition bridges.
  • The Charles Anderson Memorial Bridge has been featured in social media conversations due to its rusted condition. A project to “modernize” this bridge was launched in 2019. The final design is expected to be completed in 2024 with construction starting in 2025.
  • Two local start-ups (robotic- and drone-based) are working to provide bridge inspection services that could create more detailed, less biased condition analyses in less time to municipalities and other bridge owners. (Pittsburgh Business Times, February 25, 2022)
  • No new information has been released in the National Transportation Safety Board’s ongoing investigation into the collapse. According to an article in the Post-Gazette, the investigation will take at least a year.
  • The City’s legislation to establish the Commission on Infrastructure Asset Reporting and Investment was signed by the Mayor on March 3, 2022, and is effective as of that date. (City Council legislation page)
  • The City’s legislation to establish public reporting procedures on city infrastructure by the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure also became effective on March 3, 2022, with the Mayor’s signature. (City Council legislation page)
  • There are no new updates on the bridge repair being conducted by Port Authority, but as a resident in the affected area, I recently received a letter from Port Authority. This letter announced that they were taking advantage of the existing detour to implement some stop upgrades to the T stations in Beechview and Dormont. These renovations had been on the schedule for the near future and were being bumped up due to the current rerouting. The stop upgrades are expected to take 6 months. The letter did not mention how that would impact the resumption of normal T service. Based on the press release from February 16, there are only 6-8 more weeks of work before the bridge is restored. It seems unlikely that normal T service will resume in Beechview for several months after that with the continued concurrent work on the stops in the neighborhood.
  • A February 4th Facebook Live Q&A with PennDOT is the only reference I have found yet that says the inspections have been completed on the 5 other bridges in Pennsylvania that use the same K-design as the collapsed Fern Hollow Bridge. At about minute 19:30, a representative from PennDOT states that these bridges have all been inspected or will be inspected by the end of the day on February 4th. He also said that they are all in better condition with ratings of “fair” and “good,” instead of Fern Hollow’s “poor condition” rating, and none have weight restrictions.
  • I also found that PennDOT has its own interactive map of bridges in the state and their inspection status separate from the Federal Highway Administration’s resource.
  • The City of Pittsburgh announced on March 2 that they are starting maintenance repairs to the Centre Avenue Bridge that will take place on the underside over several months. The work is not expected to affect pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
  • The City of Pittsburgh announced in the middle of March that they were “proactively” closing the northern sidewalk on the Meadow Avenue bridge to conduct “necessary,” but “not an imminent structural concern” repairs to the bridge following a routine inspection.

Previous Fern Hollow Bridge Posts:

One-Month Update

Two-Week Update

One-Week Update

Day After

Breaking News

In Memoriam & Bridge Collapse Update

My uncle Jon, the writer, died this week. While he was and did much more than write, our strongest connection was through words. He taught me the basics of blogging, helped me select the platform for urbantraipsing, and gave me advice and support along the way. After years of living with advanced cancer, he was physically in very poor condition. Mentally and spiritually, he remained strong and very much himself until the end. A creative, compassionate, and witty man, Uncle Jon will be much missed.


Fern Hollow Bridge collapse updates, one month later:

  • No new information has been released in the National Transportation Safety Board’s ongoing investigation into the collapse.
  • The City’s legislation to establish the Commission on Infrastructure Asset Reporting and Investment underwent several amendments last month, but appears to have reached its final version. Perhaps it will be passed and sent to the Mayor for signature soon. (City Council pending ordinance)
  • The City’s legislation to establish public reporting procedures on city infrastructure by the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure was also amended multiple times. This one appears to have caused more questions as it was also sent for a legal opinion before being passed out of committee. (City Council pending ordinance)
  • The Port Authority’s South Busway Bridge remains closed with repairs expected to take up to 3 months, though the detour due to the bridge closure is still listed as indefinite (the end date shows as December 2049). (Press release, detour details)

Previous Fern Hollow Bridge Posts:

Two-Week Update

One-Week Update

Day After

Breaking News

Bridge Collapse: Two Weeks Later

I had intended to do some serious traipsing this weekend in and around Frick Park to see what kind of angles and views I could get on the site of the bridge collapse into Fern Hollow. Unfortunately, a foot injury during the week has limited my mobility to within a short range of my car. Fences and construction tape block unauthorized people from getting closer than the intersection of Forbes and Braddock on the west side of the site.

Below are updates on the activity inspired by or related to the bridge collapse, some of which follow-up on the activity identified a week after the collapse:

  • UpstreamPGH is concerned about and monitoring the environmental impacts of the collapse and reconstruction on Fern Hollow Creek and its ecosystem. (Post-Gazette article, February 11, 2022)
  • City Council extended the Mayor’s Declaration of Disaster Emergency through May 2, 2022. (City Council Resolution)
  • The National Transportation Safety Board investigation posted investigation details on February 7 describing what happened in the collapse based on the evidence reviewed so far. No probable cause has been determined yet. It is believed that the collapse started at the west end.
  • The City’s legislation on establishing the Commission on Infrastructure Asset Reporting and Investment is scheduled for council’s standing committee meeting this week. (City Council pending ordinance)
  • A related piece of legislation to establish public reporting procedures on city infrastructure by the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure was also heard and amended in council last week, but a new date has not been set for moving this legislation forward yet. (City Council pending ordinance)
  • The cause of the shift was identified in the bridge that Port Authority closed a week after the Fern Hollow Bridge collapse. It is believed that water got into the superstructure and with the freeze-thaw weather we’ve been having expanded and contracted causing the shift. (WPXI news article, February 10, 2022)
  • The City of McKeesport sped up the reinspection and closure of the Versailles Ave Bridge due to the increased risk from the fluctuating freeze-thaw temperatures. (WTAE news article, February 11, 2022)
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has order the inspection of 5 bridges across the state that share the same design as the Fern Hollow Bridge (WTAE news article, February 2, 2022):
    • Canon-McMillan Alumni Bridge in North Strabane
    • Shenango Road Bridge in Beaver
    • Philip J Fahy Memorial Bridge in Bethlehem (walked & posted)
    • McCallum Street Bridge in Philadelphia
    • Murray Ave Bridge over Beechwood Blvd in Pittsburgh (walked, but not posted yet)
  • The final of the Three Sisters Bridges, the Roberto Clemente/6th Street Bridge, will undergo its renovation starting on February 14, 2022, through December 2023. (WTAE news article, February 2, 2022)
  • Allegheny County (the owner of the Three Sisters Bridges) has plans to resolve 25 of its 27 poor condition bridges by 2024 with seven bridges scheduled to be removed or replaced this year. (Post-Gazette article, February 7, 2022)

Bridge Collapse: One Week Later

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:

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.

Urban Traipsing

Welcome to my Urban Traipsing Blog.  Join me as I wander around cities observing their various designs, what makes them similar or different, and how people use and experience them.  My current base is Pittsburgh, PA, but other cities in the US and abroad will be included as I visit them.  Currently there are two main themes directing my walking explorations: bridges and the adaptive reuse of churches.  Both themes provide insight into cities’ pasts as well as their present.  Observations outside these themes may emerge along the way.  Enjoy!