Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh Has Reopened A Day Early
Just 11 months after the bridge collapse, traffic is now flowing on the new bridge between Regent Square and Squirrel Hill.
Less than a year after the Fern Hollow Bridge in Frick Park unexpectedly collapsed, the newly rebuilt structure opened to traffic about 1:30 p.m. Thursday; the opening was expected Friday — “just in time to get to grandma’s for the holidays,” noted State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, on Wednesday.
On Jan. 28, the 447-foot-long bridge that carries Forbes Avenue over Fern Hollow Creek gave way just after 6:30 a.m., sending a Port Authority bus and several vehicles into the ravine below. Ten people suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the collapse, which occurred hours before President Joe Biden was to speak in Pittsburgh about infrastructure issues.
On Wednesday, local, state and federal officials gathered on the new bridge to dedicate the structure, and celebrate its opening to traffic.
Gov. Tom Wolf attended with other state officials, joining Mayor Ed Gainey, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and others, each speaking about the “miraculous” feat during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The officials thanked every person who helped to expedite the project to ensure the structure that typically carries vehicles a day was opened by the end of the year, noting a bridge replacement typically takes five years from start to finish.
“This is an incredible accomplishment in the wake of this tragic incident,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian.
Emergency declarations from Wolf and Gainey allowed the planning process to bypass the red tape involved with rebuilding the 52-year-old structure, and Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allowed $23.5 million in federal funding to be allotted to the endeavor.
“This is a historic day for Pittsburgh. This isn’t just a City of Pittsburgh victory; this is a state victory,” Gainey said. “We are the most resilient city in the commonwealth, and we got it up quicker than ever before because we worked together.”
Gainey also announced the city has released its comprehensive bridge report that identifies high-priority bridge projects and issues that need to be addressed, some within the next six months.
Wolf shared that they all watched in horror when the bridge collapsed, and because of all of the hard work and collaboration “your hard work helped to turn this site of tragedy into one of hope.”
Wolf added the collapse was a “visceral reminder” of the importance of investing in infrastructure.
“It’s so important that every Pennsylvanian gets where they are going safely,” said Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills. “From work to school to errands to spending time with friends, we all deserve the infrastructure necessary to travel and return home safe and sound.”
“A bridge collapse shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It should be embraced by all, and that’s what we did,” Frankel said. “If we can work together when a bridge collapses into a ravine, we can certainly work together to ensure that no Pennsylvania bridge ever collapses.”
Cheryl Moon-Sirianni, district executive for PennDOT’s District 11, which includes the Pittsburgh region, also thanked the many contractors who worked backward in their design process to complete the project, including Pete Douglass, general superintendent with Swank Construction, who is credited with setting the 11-month timeframe.
Douglass said he is ready for the project to be completed.
“It’s time for the next one,” he laughed. “Hopefully, this one will not be because of a bridge collapse.”