Gov. Wolf Reaffirms Need to Invest in Infrastructure Following Visit to Bridge Collapse Site
PITTSBURGH, Pa. (EYT) – Governor Tom Wolf on Sunday re-emphasized the critical need to invest in our infrastructure as the investigation into the collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh continues.
(Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Safety.)
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is currently conducting a thorough investigation on-site, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is supporting this effort.
On Friday, the governor invited President Joe Biden to join him to visit the site of the bridge, which collapsed earlier that morning. The governor then took swift action hours later, signing a proclamation of disaster emergency for Allegheny County to ensure quick response for reconstruction.
“Seeing the collapsed bridge and talking with the first responders on-site was startling and it’s a miracle that there were no serious injuries or deaths. I am extremely grateful for our first responders and local officials, who ensured the public’s safety in the aftermath,” Gov. Wolf said. “The fact is, our aging infrastructure has been ignored for decades, and that’s why I’m so grateful President Joe Biden joined us at the bridge collapse on Friday and that he shares my ongoing commitment to strengthening our roads and bridges.
“While the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will go a long way to support our nation and our commonwealth, we must heed this collapse as a sign that we must take steps at the state level to prevent a future tragedy. The federal investments coming to Pennsylvania are significant, but they simply won’t fully fund our multi-billion-dollar infrastructure funding gap, which continues to grow,” Gov. Wolf said. “We must come together in bipartisan fashion to enact long-term funding solutions for our own infrastructure system.”
President Joe Biden stopped at the site of the bridge collapse in Frick Park shortly after landing in Pittsburgh on Friday for a planned visit to discuss infrastructure legislation.
“We’ve got to get on with it. We’ve got to move,” Biden stated regarding the need to fix bridges. “We don’t need headlines saying that someone was killed when the next bridge collapses.”
The collapse took place in the early morning hours on Friday, January 28, in the area of Forbes and Braddock in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
Officials say a Port Authority bus and several passenger vehicles were involved in the collapse.
According to officials, ten people were injured in the incident, including three people from the Port Authority bus that were transported to hospitals. However, none of the injuries were reported to be life-threatening.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, officials from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have been working to extract video cameras that may contain footage of the collapse from the Port Authority bus trapped in the wreckage.
Officials aren’t certain if all of the cameras on the bus were operational or how useful the footage may be, but they hope to reclaim what they can before trying to move the vehicle out of the wreckage.
A crane that will be used in the removal is set up on Forbes Avenue near where the collapse took place and is expected to be used in an attempt to extract the bus on either Monday or Tuesday. On Sunday, crews began removing the diesel fuel from the bus, as a safety precaution, to prepare it for the removal.
According to officials, one of the reasons they want to remove the cameras before attempting to move the bus is due to the bus being articulated and possibly having to be removed in two parts.
While the footage will provide one route within the ongoing investigation of the collapse, officials say the full investigation could take months.
Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey issued a statement signaling his plan to sign a declaration of disaster emergency on Sunday.
The declaration is intended to increase the availability of federal funds, facilitate closer coordination between PennDOT and the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI), and expedite the process of cleanup and reconstruction of the Fern Hollow Bridge, the statement indicates.
According to the statement, the city also announced its decision to become a party to the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation, which will allow the City and all relevant departments to share information with the NTSB in support of their independent investigation and to receive information that can be used to improve safety.
“The Fern Hollow Bridge collapse is a painful reminder of the condition of our bridges and a call to action to address our aging infrastructure,” said Mayor Gainey.
“As the City of Bridges, we know how critical our infrastructure is to working families. They are the connectors to jobs, to schools, to childcare, and more. As Mayor, I want the people of Pittsburgh to know that I will be working tirelessly to secure additional funding for our infrastructure needs. With the support of our county, state, and federal partners, we will build back better.”
Frick Park is closed temporarily until the bridge collapse site can be fully secured. The city urges residents not to enter the park as it remains a hazardous site. City departments are working to re-open as much of the park as possible in the near future.
To support traffic operations and ongoing work at the project site, DOMI is modifying signal operations in the vicinity of the Forbes Avenue (Fern Hollow) Bridge detour and restricting parking access at the intersection of South Braddock and Forbes Avenue. DOMI will continue to monitor and adjust traffic operations as necessary.
To improve traffic flow, DOMI has also temporarily eliminated at least 100 feet of street parking next to Forbes/Braddock playground. Cones are currently on-site to block off parking lanes as vehicles leave and towing will not be enforced. Temporary “no parking” signs will be posted on Monday.
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