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Pittsburgh, PA bridge collapse caused by years of neglect, oversight failures

  • The collapse of Pittsburgh’s Forbes Avenue Bridge was caused by inadequate maintenance and repairs by the city, federal investigators said.
  • The collapse occurred on January 28, 2022, and involved one bus and four passenger cars.
  • The City of Pittsburgh allegedly failed to follow maintenance recommendations for more than 15 years leading up to its collapse.

The city of Pittsburgh failed to properly maintain and repair the bridge and failed to act on inspection reports, leading to the bridge’s steel legs corroding and collapsing into a ravine, federal investigators announced Wednesday.

On January 28, 2022, the city-owned Forbes Avenue Bridge collapsed, plunging a bus and four cars approximately 100 feet into Fern Hollow Creek. Another vehicle came off the abutment of the East Bridge and landed on its roof. There were injuries, but no deaths.

After investigators released their findings, three members of the National Transportation Safety Board agreed that one of the possible causes of the collapse was inadequate inspections and insufficient oversight.

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NTSB Chair Jennifer L. Homendy said the incident was a wake-up call, saying, “The Fern Hollow Bridge collapse should never have happened.”

A vehicle is seen among the rubble of the Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh, which collapsed on January 28, 2022. The city of Pittsburgh did not properly maintain and repair the bridge and did not act on inspection reports, which led to corrosion of the structure’s steel. Federal investigators said Wednesday that his leg was severed and he collapsed into a ravine. (AP Photo/Jean J. Pasker, File)

Homendy cited widespread corrosion of unpainted weathering steel and “repeated failures” to address damage to the bridge that had been known for years. In some areas, the steel had deteriorated, leaving visible holes in the structure.

“The City of Pittsburgh was responsible for the inspection and maintenance of the Fern Hollow Bridge,” said Dan Walsh, NTSB senior structural engineer. “Similar maintenance and repair recommendations had been in inspection reports for more than 15 years leading up to the collapse. However, the city did not act on them, allowing corrosion to progress to the point of failure. ”

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Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey’s office noted that the government does not dispute the NTSB’s findings and that the bridge inspection was conducted by a consultant. The city created a new Bridge Maintenance Division and increased funding for bridge maintenance and repairs by 300%.

Maria Montaño, communications director for the city of Pittsburgh, said in an email that the city has since reviewed inspection reports for all city-owned bridges and is “working diligently to address all of the important issues identified in the report.” We are working on it,” he said. She said most of the “high priority” issues have been resolved or are in progress, and the city has reviewed all “destruction critical” components of the bridge to ensure they are draining properly. said.

A bridge collapse hours before President Joe Biden arrives in Pittsburgh to promote infrastructure spending, injuring four people, two seriously.

Steve Barth, an attorney representing bus driver Darryl Luciani in a lawsuit against the city and bridge engineers, said the NTSB’s findings support the conclusions of his experts.

Mr Barth said there were “failures at multiple levels, from the collection of data, the recording of that data, the implementation of the recommendations and the subsequent oversight”.

Barth said there are at least six lawsuits related to the bridge collapse. Luciani required shoulder surgery, suffered back and neck injuries and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, Barth said. Luciani’s lawyer said the accident resulted in Luciani being forced to take a long period of time off work under workers’ compensation.

Montaño declined to comment on pending litigation.

The announcement expands on findings the NTSB released last May, in which investigators found drainage problems led to deterioration of the structure’s legs, and debris, dirt and leaves were not removed. Stated.

The old bridge was about 50 years old when it collapsed and was under the posted weight limit of 26 tons (24,000 kilograms). Since 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has required annual inspections. Investigators said more accurate testing would have reduced the weight limit. It may have increased to about 6,000 pounds and required closure.

An animation of the collapse was played on the bulletin board, along with a video from a bus operated by the Allegheny County Port Authority, now known as Pittsburgh Regional Transit. It showed the harrowing moment when the bridge began to fail and then fell.

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NTSB senior accident investigator Dennis Collins said the failure began when a steel tie plate on the bridge’s southwest leg failed due to corrosion and structural loss. The city also said the city made improper load calculations, in part because pavement records did not show the asphalt was twice as thick as inspectors believed.

Collins said the city’s bridge inspection program had not identified all of the critical “failure hazards” of the structures that required close monitoring.

Steel cables were added to strengthen the bridge in 2009, but it was intended as a temporary solution and no long-term fix was completed.

The new bridge, located 5 miles (8 kilometers) east of downtown Pittsburgh, will open in December 2022.

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