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Fern Hollow Bridge could reopen by the end of the year

Construction crews move the first of 21 concrete beams needed to rebuild Fern Hollow Bridge into place on July 25, 2022.
Julia Zenkevich
90.5 WESA
Construction crews move the first of 21 concrete beams needed to rebuild Fern Hollow Bridge into place on July 25, 2022.

Construction on the new Fern Hollow Bridge continued as workers moved the first support beams into place on Monday. Officials from Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation hope the bridge will open by the end of the year.

PennDOT, which is overseeing the design and construction of the city-owned bridge, will use 21 concrete beams weighing about 100 tons each for the project.

Since the bridge collapsed in January, PennDOT has moved quickly to restore the connection between Squirrel Hill and more eastern parts of the city like Regent Square. Officials estimate the Forbes Avenue corridor carried 21,000 vehicles per day.

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At a press conference on Monday, Cheryl Moon-Sirianni, the district executive for PennDOT’s Engineering District 11, said the new bridge will be a typical structure built in a very aggressive time frame.

“I know a lot of people say, ‘Why don’t you do this all the time if you can do this so fast?’ . . . It takes a lot of resources and everything else stops,” Moon-Sirianni said.

She added that the typical timeline for a bridge project is usually years-long. It can take three years of planning, getting permits, and organizing logistics before construction crews can even break ground.

Both Governor Tom Wolf and Mayor Ed Gainey enacted states of emergency after the collapse, which allowed PennDOT to use emergency procurement procedures in the construction process.

Some have criticized the sped-up process, which bypassed some of the usual steps including soliciting public input and a review of the plans by the Pittsburgh Art Commission.

PennDOT began designing the new bridge just a week after the old bridge fell and started procuring emergency permits not long after.

“Today brings us one day closer to restoring the vital piece of our city, our infrastructure,” Gainey said. “Every day that we go without this bridge in place is a day that we reroute 18,000 vehicles.”

TheBridge Asset Management Program, recently approved by the Pittsburgh City Council to assess every city-owned bridge, will apply to the new Fern Hollow Bridge.

Officials warn supply chain issues could change the bridge’s opening date.

“We’re having a little bit of difficulty procuring the bridge barrier, and obviously, we’re not opening a 90 foot high bridge without barrier,” Moon-Sirianni said. “You think baby formula is tough? Try to get steel barrier.”

When the bridge does open, PennDOT will likely install temporary lighting, as light poles have also been difficult to track down. A new crosswalk signal near the gatehouse will probably be delayed until next year.

Moon-Sirianni said PennDOT won’t know the final cost of the bridge until it’s done but hopes it won’t go over the $25.3 million in federal funds allocated to the project.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at