Contractors sprinted to finish railings and barriers and allow the new Fern Hollow Bridge between Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill and Point Breeze neighborhoods to reopen early Thursday afternoon.
The new bridge opened about 1:30 p.m. with one lane of traffic in each direction and a shared bicycle and pedestrian path on one side. A barrier has been installed to separate traffic from the other side of the bridge so that crews can continue work on the other two lanes of traffic that are expected to open next spring.
Federal, state and local officials cut a ceremonial ribbon for the bridge on Wednesday, but at that time officials weren’t sure whether crews could finish needed safety work before the brunt of a major winter storm hits the area early Friday morning.
The new bridge on Forbes Avenue replaces the one that collapsed into Frick Park Jan. 28, injuring 11 people and eliminating a structure used by 40,000 vehicles a day.
Contractor Swank Construction and design consultant HDR worked under an emergency $25.3 million federal grant to replace the bridge as quickly as possible. Crews were able to begin construction while design continued, rather than waiting for complete design, permitting and bidding that could have taken several years.
In addition to the remaining work on the bridge itself, restoration of the park underneath it will continue through next spring. Neighbors and others are sure to keep watching.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation oversaw construction of the new bridge but will turn it over to Pittsburgh for ownership and maintenance. The old bridge had been tagged in poor condition for more than 10 years before it collapsed. The National Transportation Safety Board continues to review the cause of the collapse. Its report could be ready early next year.