Officials: Pittsburgh bridge was not bad enough to require its closure

Gene Puskar and Mark Scolforo
The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — The bridge that collapsed in Pittsburgh last week showed deterioration during a September inspection that was not bad enough to require its closure, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said Monday.

The agency will not release the full inspection report, PennDOT spokesperson Alexis Campbell said, citing state and federal laws and the ongoing investigation into the Friday morning failure of the Forbes Avenue bridge over Fern Hollow Creek in Frick Park.

Campbell did provide some details about the inspection four months ago, including that there has been a 26-ton (24,000 kilo) posted weight limit on the bridge since 2014.

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As with previous inspections, the Sept. 29 examination rated the steel K-frame bridge a 4 on a scale from 0 to 9, which is deemed a poor rating.

“This bridge’s design relies on the quality of frame elements alone without any back-up support (known as redundancy) and reports show deterioration that did not warrant closure, but supported the imposition of a posted weight limit,” Campbell said in an email.

Under investigation: The structure, built five decades ago, is one of six bridges with similar designs in the state. Campbell said the reasons it failed and collapsed remain unclear and are the subject of investigations.

A team from the National Transportation Safety Board was at the scene Monday as crews siphoned gasoline and brought in cranes to lift five vehicles and a municipal bus off the crumpled remains of the bridge.

There were no fatalities, but a few people required hospital treatment, officials said.

The daughter of a couple said her parents had been crossing the bridge, on their way to provide care for a relative, when their pickup truck plummeted to the ground.

A Port Authority bus that was on a bridge when it collapsed Friday Jan. 28, 2022, is visible in Pittsburgh's East End.  A 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.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Tyrone and Velva Perry’s windshield cracked and their airbags deployed, Erin Perry said. When Tyrone Perry saw the bridge buckling, he figured he was about to die.

They watched in terror as another car flew by them and a third landed just feet away.

‘Outrageous’: She said the Pittsburgh couple both suffered fractured vertebrae and were in a lot of pain but good spirits. Tyrone Perry sees the collapse whenever he closes his eyes, and Velva Perry still has a feeling she is falling.

“It’s so outrageous that this would happen; it was like a scene from an action movie,” Erin Perry said.

Natural gas lines along the bridge ruptured, causing a large gas leak and evacuation of nearby homes.

As the curious found their way to view the site, city public safety officials opened an observation area Monday, connected by a trail to a small parking area.