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A mechanical issue has grounded the Mon Incline

Keith Srakocic

In a city of winding rivers and towering hills, bold bridges and gravity-defying steps, the 153-year-old Monongahela Incline is still a standout of transportation ingenuity. Each weekday it carries some 1,000 people up and down the steep side of Mount Washington without a hitch. Until Friday.

Fulfilling the worst fears of this city’s more anxious citizens, the two cars stopped suddenly around 5 p.m., about 50 feet from the top and bottom stations. On Monday, Pittsburgh Regional Transit officials announced that a preliminary investigation concluded an air conditioning unit caused the unexpected halt.

Most of the mechanicals for the incline are in the basement of the top station, and an AC unit ensures that some of the electric circuitry doesn’t overheat. However, a condensation buildup appears to have interrupted that circuitry and triggered the emergency brake, according to PRT spokesperson Adam Brandolph.

Pittsburgh Regional Transit police, firefighters, and paramedics headed to the scene, prepared to rescue the 12 people suspended on the side of the hill. Ultimately, the cars were able to finish their trip at 6 p.m. PRT closed the incline immediately after.

Engineers are looking for a way to better allow condensation to evaporate. In the meantime, the incline will remain closed until further notice.

Officials say they will test drive any solution several times before returning the incline to service.

An $8 million rehabilitation of the Monongahela Incline wrapped in late 2022, and the system was last inspected this March.