Bridge collapses in Pittsburgh, injuring 10, stranding bus and other vehicles

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President Joe Biden visited the scene of an early Friday morning bridge collapse in Pittsburgh, from which three people were taken to the hospital.

It was the same day as his scheduled visit to the city to talk about infrastructure.

The collapse happened on Forbes Avenue over Frick Park, a major thoroughfare for the area that nearly 14,500 vehicles cross each day.

Ten people, including first responders, sustained minor injuries, according to a news release. Of the three taken to the hospital, none have life-threatening injuries.

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Five vehicles and one Port Authority bus were on the span at the time, the release states. Emergency responders rushed to the scene at 6:39 a.m.

Rescuers rappelled nearly 150 feet to help rescue those on the bridge. Others formed a human chain to reach the victims.

A Port Authority bus that was on a bridge when it collapsed, Jan. 28, 2022, is visible in Pittsburgh's East End. The two-lane bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh early Friday, prompting rescuers to rappel nearly 150 feet (46 meters) while others formed a human chain to help rescue multiple people from a dangling bus.
A Port Authority bus that was on a bridge when it collapsed, Jan. 28, 2022, is visible in Pittsburgh's East End. The two-lane bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh early Friday, prompting rescuers to rappel nearly 150 feet (46 meters) while others formed a human chain to help rescue multiple people from a dangling bus.

An urban search and rescue team was called in, and emergency responders worked to make sure no one was under it, Fire Chief Darryl Jones said.

A massive gas leak caused by the collapse forced some nearby residents to evacuate. The gas company later restored service, and the families were allowed back into their homes, he said.

The cause of the collapse is under investigation.

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Biden checks out the scene

Biden ended up visiting the bridge before his scheduled event.

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Flanked by Sen. Bob Casey, Gov. Tom Wolf, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and other officials, Biden could be seen in press pool video walking to the edge of the bridge to survey the damage.

Police officers told him there were a few joggers underneath the bridge at the time of the collapse, but they were unhurt and actually helped remove victims.

Biden said he did not know that Pittsburgh had more bridges than any city in the world and that many are in poor condition.

"I had no idea," Biden said, "and we're going to fix them all."

Wolf signed a disaster declaration to allow a quick response for reconstructing the bridge.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to the scene.

Gov. Tom Wolf said in a tweet: "We are monitoring the situation in Pittsburgh and prepared to provide support as needed."

Pittsburgh Public Safety posted this Jan. 28, 2022 photo of the collapsed bridge on Forbes Avenue.
Pittsburgh Public Safety posted this Jan. 28, 2022 photo of the collapsed bridge on Forbes Avenue.

The American Red Cross is setting up a victim assistance unit to help.

One on bus reported injuries

An operator and two passengers were on a 60-foot articulated bus when the bridge fell down, Port Authority of Allegheny County spokesman Adam Brandolph said. All three were taken off the bus safely.

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One of the passengers later reported injuries and was taken to the hospital, he said.

The 22-ton bus slid backward when the bridge fell, the back of it twisting to a 45-degree angle, Brandolph said

It came to rest at the bottom of the hollow, and the Port Authority is determining the best way to remove it.

The bus was heading outbound at the time of the collapse. If it would have been heading in the other direction, more riders likely would have been on it, he said.

The Port Authority thanked the emergency responders.

"This absolutely could have been much worse this morning, and we're thankful for their quick action," he said.

The bridge is owned by the City of Pittsburgh, according to a spokeswoman with the state Department of Transportation.

The Forbes Avenue bridge, built in 1970, is listed in poor condition and needs to be repaired, according to the National Bridge Inventory. The deck is listed as "basically intolerable requiring high priority of corrective action."

Frick Park is closed to the public, Pittsburgh Public Safety said.

Collapse forces school closure

The collapse of the bridge forced the closure of a nearby school.

Saint Bede Catholic School in Point Breeze had called for a two-hour delay on Friday because of the weather, according to a news release. The school later announced it would close because of the bridge collapse.

“Many teachers and parents of Saint Bede use that bridge every day. We are so blessed to have been on a 2-hour delay. We thank God no injuries have been reported and pray for all involved,” Sister Daniela Bronka, principal, said in the release.

Forensic analysis will help determine cause

Bridge collapses are rare, and when it does happen, it makes national news, said Kevin Heaslip, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech.

The Forbes Avenue bridge is 52 years old, and the useful life of a span is 50.

Records show the weight limit on the bridge had been lowered because of the poor rating on the deck and superstructure, Heaslip said. Officials take that step when an inspection shows wear and tear, and the span needs to be put on a list for rehabilitation or replacement.

The bridge was inspected in September, said Sam Wasserman, a spokesperson for Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey. No further details were provided.

A forensic analysis will be done to determine where the failure occurred and piece together how that could have happened, Heaslip said. That effort will take time.

“We don't know what could have happened to this bridge,” he said. "It could have been something that happened recently that put the bridge in a more precarious position than it was at the last inspection."

Pennsylvania has twice the percentage of deficient bridges than the nationwide average, he said. Some states have deferred maintenance on bridges because the funds aren’t available to do it.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill will help to repair or replace bridges that need to be repaired or replaced, he said

Infrastructure money to fix bridges

Pennsylvania is set to receive $1.63 billion from the infrastructure bill to fix its deficient bridges and could receive more in the coming year.

The state has the second-most bridges in poor conditions.

The bridge that collapsed is typically traveled by 15,000 cars a day and is a detour to get around rush-hour traffic.

The site of the collapse is about 4 miles from where Biden was scheduled to speak.

Reporters Candy Woodall and J.D Prose contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Pittsburgh bridge collapse: Biden to visit after 10 were injured

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