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After bridge collapse, local officials stress need for immediate infrastructure investment

A bridge on Forbes Ave. over Frick Park collapsed the morning of Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.
Courtesy Pittsburgh Public Safety
A bridge on Forbes Ave. over Frick Park collapsed the morning of Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.

The collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge on Friday morning had local officials loudly emphasizing the need for investment in regional infrastructure and touting the future dollars of President Joe Biden's infrastructure package.

Biden had a pre-existing trip planned to the city for Friday afternoon. White House officials said he planned to discuss last fall’s bipartisan infrastructure spending plan, which includes money to upgrade bridges.

Darrin Kelly, the region's top labor official and a city firefighter, said that the collapse highlighted the importance of the infrastructure needs Biden is expected to discuss.

"Things like this should never happen in a country of ours. It's just surreal to see this in our city," Kelly said. "It underscores how important it is that we realize that it's everybody's duty to protect each other and build a stable infrastructure."

But Kelly, who will be at Biden's speech, said that while "we will welcome the president today, our hearts and thoughts are with everybody who was injured, with our transit and public safety workers. We're all Pittsburghers right now. There's no such thing as a Republican or a Democrat in a moment like this."

Elected officials weighed in as well.

At a press conference, Mayor Ed Gainey said the federal infrastructure package was essential to Pittsburgh: "It’s critical to southwestern Pennsylvania and the city. We know we have bridges we need to take care of. For [Biden] coming today to talk about why this funding is so important . . . this is critical we get this funding."

"This is a tragic example of why the #infrastructure bill Congress just enacted is needed," U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle wrote on Twitter. "We should be constantly investing MORE in our infrastructure so our bridges and other public works don’t reach this point of disrepair.

"The collapse of the Frick Park Bridge this morning is a reminder that investments in infrastructure are investments in public safety," said Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb in a statement. "Allegheny County has more structurally deficient bridges than any other county in the nation. If we do not act, events like this will, unfortunately, continue to happen. I'm thankful there was no loss of life this morning, and we owe a debt of gratitude to the public employees who are supporting recovery efforts at the scene."

Patrick Doyle oversees WESA's digital news. Previously, he served as WESA's news director. Email:
Nearly three decades after leaving home for college, Chris Potter now lives four miles from the house he grew up in -- a testament either to the charm of the South Hills or to a simple lack of ambition. In the intervening years, Potter held a variety of jobs, including asbestos abatement engineer and ice-cream truck driver. He has also worked for a number of local media outlets, only some of which then went out of business. After serving as the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper for a decade, he covered politics and government at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has won some awards during the course of his quarter-century journalistic career, but then even a blind squirrel sometimes digs up an acorn.