New bridge to open in place of collapsed Pittsburgh span

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pennsylvania officials say a newly built bridge to replace the one that collapsed earlier this year in Pittsburgh will open to traffic by the end of December.

Gov. Tom Wolf and other state and local officials marked the announcement Wednesday by walking across the new Fern Hollow bridge and holding a ribbon-cutting. Wolf called the speedy work “the power of government working for the people in Pennsylvania.”

The 50-year-old bridge carries Forbes Avenue over Frick Park, Fern Hollow Creek and Tranquil Trail, and collapsed on the morning of Jan. 28 — hours before President Joe Biden arrived in the city to promote his $1 trillion infrastructure law, which earmarked about $1.6 billion for Pennsylvania bridge maintenance.

The collapse sent a city bus and four cars about 100 feet (30 meters) down a ravine carved by the creek. Another vehicle drove off the east bridge abutment and landed on its roof.

No one died, but a few people required hospital treatment — including at least two for serious injuries — and rescuers had to rappel down a ravine and form a human chain to reach a few passengers on the bus.

Natural gas lines along the bridge ruptured, causing a large gas leak and evacuation of nearby homes.

The National Transportation Safety Board has said it is investigating the cause of the collapse.

Up to $25.3 million in federal funds were bring used to build a new structure, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has said.

Officials say they sped up the work by several years by running multiple design phases simultaneously, including foundation, substructure, superstructure, utility relocation, environmental and aesthetic work.

When it opens, the bridge will have a single-lane of bi-directional traffic, while work continues into next year, including completing the bridge deck overlay.

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