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After Fern Hollow collapse, Pittsburgh to hire firm for citywide bridge analysis

A Port Authority bus and a car sit on top of a collapsed bridge covered in snow.
Gene J. Puskar
A Port Authority bus and a car that were on the Fern Hollow Bridge when it collapsed Friday Jan. 28, 2022, are visible in Pittsburgh's East End.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey is looking for a firm to help the city do a comprehensive review of its bridges.

"For far too long we have allowed for our bridges to be underfunded, and we know firsthand the impact that it has on our residents, our visitors, and our economic vitality," Gainey told reporters Thursday.

This week the city released a request for proposals for a consultant to help carry out a new Bridge Asset Management Program. The program is for the city to maintain its bridge inventory — which numbers 150 structures of varying sizes — "in a structurally safe and serviceable condition."

The city will hire a firm to review the current conditions of city-owned bridges and provide the administration with a report on their conditions by October. The review would prioritize immediate repair needs, and develop a comprehensive maintenance plan to prolong the life service of each bridge and minimize long-term costs.

Gainey's plan also requires creating a new bridge maintenance division that will implement maintenance and repairs.

The moves follow this winter's collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge, which has raised long-simmering concerns over the health of the city's infrastructure. On Thursday, Gainey made special mention of the Swindell Bridge, which crosses over I-279 and which has been the subject of mounting concern.

"Rest assure the moment the inspector thinks the bridge is unsafe we will not hesitate to close it immediately," he said. "We are in the beginning and design process for a full rehab of the Swindell Bridge."

Gainey said he did not want to predict how much the plan would cost until they look at the bids they receive. Companies interested in working on the contract have until June 3 to submit their proposals.