Pittsburgh’s reconstructed Fern Hollow Bridge is nearly complete almost nine months after the original bridge collapsed.
The Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation says collaboration with the city allowed multiple design phases to occur simultaneously. They include foundation, substructure, superstructure and utility relocation, as well as the environmental and aesthetic aspects of the project.
The bridge is expected to open to traffic by the end of 2022, less than a year after its collapse on Jan. 28. Visiting the jobsite on Oct. 20, President Joe Biden credited the bipartisan infrastructure bill for enabling the $25.3-million, federally-funded project to speed ahead.
“It normally takes two to five years to build a bridge like this," Biden said, according to local media reports.
Shortly after its collapse, design and construction of the replacement was turned over to PennDOT, which hired the design-build team of HDR and Swank Construction for the project.
PennDOT says substructure and superstructure work of the 447-ft-long, city-owned bridge has been completed, while concrete deck placement expected to conclude later this month. The agency expects bridge barrier installation, the completion of abutment and wingwalls, and roadway tie-ins to the bridge to be finished by late December. At that point the bridge could open to a single lane of bi-directional traffic. PennDOT says work will be fully completed in early 2023.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which released its preliminary collapse investigation findings in May, will issue the final report on the cause next year.
State inspectors’ reports obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found that the bridge “had been on officials’ radar for decades as a potential hazard.” The newspaper found that state officials knew that the bridge's "deterioration" could be a threat to the 14,000 cars that crossed the bridge daily.
'A Visceral Reminder'
"The collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge was a visceral reminder that Pennsylvania, like many states, is in a race against time to repair aging infrastructure," Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said in a statement released by PennDOT. "This problem isn't unique to our state, but we need solutions urgently–because our communities deserve to know that they can rely on the safety of the bridges, roads and other infrastructure they use every single day."
Wolf said the federal infrastructure funding measure will bring $4 billion in new highway and bridge funds to Pennsylvania during the next five years, including nearly $600 million in this federal fiscal year.
Without federal funds, Wolf said, the state would have been “scrambling to find the money to quickly replace the Fern Hollow Bridge, and other important projects would have been impacted.”
Substantial construction on the replacement bridge began in May before nearly two dozen 100-ton concrete support beams were delivered to support the new span during the summer.
“I’m coming back to walk across the sucker,” Biden said.