Fern Hollow Bridge repair set to wrap by end of year

Dive Brief:

  • Repairs to the Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh will likely be finished by December, according to the Pennsylvania DOT — a much faster timeline than is typical for these types of projects, the agency said. The $25.3 million cost is fully covered through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
  • Last week President Joe Biden returned to the span, which had collapsed in January the same day he was visiting to promote the infrastructure act, to tout the repair work funded by the legislation since then. Omaha, Nebraska-based HDR and New Kensington, Pennsylvania-based Swank Construction are fixing the bridge.
  • In addition to the Fern Hollow span, IIJA funds are being used to rehabilitate and replace over 2,400 bridges across the country, according to a White House fact sheet released on Oct. 20. That number exceeds the administration’s goal to start repair work on 1,500 bridges in the first year of act’s five-year funding timeline.

Dive Insight:

The 50-year-old Fern Hollow Bridge collapsed on Jan. 28, sending a bus and six cars tumbling. The incident injured nine motorists, two of them seriously, according to a May National Transportation Safety Board investigation update. NTSB is continuing to work to determine the probable cause of the collapse “with the intent of issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar events.”

While the investigation is ongoing, CBS News reported that a Pennsylvania DOT inspection from four months prior to the collapse indicated the legs and cross beams under the west end of the span were badly corroded, but the agency had failed to act on the information.

Fern Hollow Bridge is just one example where infrastructure act money is beginning to make a tangible impact, the president said during his visit last week.

Infrastructure act funds flowing to states

Bridges are an area of emphasis for the Biden administration as the infrastructure act rolls out; the law provides a record $40 billion for bridges over five years. In the release, the White House listed a number of spans across the country that are benefiting from IIJA funding, including the I-270 Bridge over the Mississippi River and the East River Bridges Capital Program in New York City.

Some of the IIJA funding flows to the Bridge Formula Program to enable states to repair bridges, including $5.5 billion in 2022. Earlier this month, U.S. DOT announced another $5.53 billion for the program from the IIJA for fiscal year 2023. There’s also more bridge funding available through the INFRA program, which offers grants for multimodal freight and highway projects.

Finally, there’s another $12.5 billion available through the new Bridge Investment Program, the FHWA announced on Oct. 12. U.S. DOT plans to announce the awards for large bridge projects through the Bridge Investment Program later this year, according to the fact sheet.

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