After bridge collapse, Pittsburgh greenlights comprehensive bridge evaluation

Dive Brief: 

  • The Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday approved a two-year, $1.5 million contract with engineering services firm WSP Global’s WSP USA division to manage a comprehensive bridge assessment and issue a report with findings by October, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
  • The contract calls for the Bridge Asset Management Program report to include recommended maintenance, repair or rehabilitation for each of the 150 city-owned bridges throughout Pittsburgh.
  • The initiative comes in the wake of a local bridge collapse in January and the passage last year of the largest federal infrastructure law in more than a decade.

Dive Insight:

Infrastructure needs are on the minds of city leaders across the U.S. Results from a National League of Cities survey shared Tuesday showed that “roads, bridges and major projects” are what local leaders most often said they plan to support with funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, or bipartisan infrastructure law. The survey found that 82% of local leaders from 153 cities, towns and villages intend to allocate funding to such projects.

That need hit close to home in Pittsburgh, known as the “City of Bridges.” The Fern Hollow Bridge collapsed there in January, injuring at least nine people and rupturing gas lines, causing a large gas leak that forced some families to evacuate from nearby homes. Mayor Ed Gainey signed a declaration of disaster emergency and at the time called the collapse “a painful reminder of the condition of our bridges and a call to action to address our aging infrastructure.” 

After the Fern Hollow Bridge collapsed, and the federal government committed over $25 million for repairs, the city began reevaluating its investment in infrastructure. In May, Gainey announced the creation of a team to inspect all 150 city-owned bridges through the Bridge Asset Management Program. A related trust fund the city council created will support needed bridge investments, with officials planning to put $2.5 million of American Rescue Plan dollars into the fund, the Tribune-Review reported.

By early July, Pittsburgh tapped WSP as its bridge asset manager, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, with the intent that the firm would study the city’s bridges and, by October, develop a comprehensive report on their condition. The asset management plan should include recommended maintenance, preservation or repair and rehabilitation activities; recommended time frames for each activity; and recommendations for wisely investing city resources and staffing plans, according to the May request for proposal the city issued.

The city of Pittsburgh and WSP did not return requests for comment.

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