Officials Hold a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at The New Fern Hollow Bridge

Dec. 22, 2022
The new Fern Hollow Bridge should be completed before the end of the year

The Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania collapsed in January. Less than a year after it's collapse, the new Fern Hollow Bridge was celebrated on Wednesday as officials gathered to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new structure.

Final railing installation work continued as Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, and other officials gathered for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting at the four-lane Forbes Avenue span, which links Regent Square and surrounding neighborhoods to Squirrel Hill. The bridge could be open for traffic as early as Thursday, but the completion date officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) have given is before the end of the year.

“We looked in horror at what happened at this bridge," Wolf told  people at the ceremony. “I saw the damage. This is the power of government that works for people.”

The bridge collapse was also a “visceral reminder in a race to repair our infrastructure,” he said.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald echoed the sentiment, saying, “Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure — we got to make sure we invest in infrastructure.”

Pennsylvania is in line for $1.6 billion in bridge repair money, state Secretary of Transportation Yassmin Gramian said. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) has already helped fix 2,400 Pennsylvania bridges this year.

“We were all in this together,” she said, adding that the new bridge marked a “major milestone in the wake of a tragic accident.”

The Fern Hollow Bridge collapsed on January 28, sparking a cascade of structural failures that sent five passenger vehicles and an articulating 61B Pittsburgh Regional Transit bus plunging onto a popular park walking path about 100 feet below. Although there were no fatalities, there were 10 injuries.

Emergency declarations by Wolf and Gainey allowed work to start on the bridge substructure while the top was still being designed. Composite prestressed concrete I-beams were used in the design-build approach, which made completion possible in as little as one fifth the time that similar projects would need, officials said.

International design firm HDR and Swank Construction were the contractors at a budgeted cost of $25.3 million.

Separately on Wednesday, Gainey’s office released a bridge management report that found three high-priority bridge repair projects involving structural integrity and 60 other bridge issues that needed attention within six months. The highest priority projects were not clearly identified in the report, which was prepared by a team of 12 engineers representing five firms.