Six bridges owned by the city of Pittsburgh, some of which have been deemed by inspectors to be in rough shape for more than 30 years, received federal funding to take the first step toward major repairs.
The preliminary design work, totaling about $2.3 million, is funded through a program of President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that is dedicated to locally owned infrastructure. The six bridges are just some of the dozens in “poor” condition across the city, competing against each other and hundreds of other projects for limited construction money.
Three contractors have been selected to perform the work: Stantec Consulting Services Inc. for the Maple Avenue, Corley Street and Calera Street bridges; H.W. Lochner Inc. for the Herron Avenue and Elizabeth Street bridges; and MS Consultants Inc. for the California Avenue bridge.
Emily Bourne, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, said staff are working with the contractors to “finalize the scope of work and hours.” She said this is “a lengthy process and will take some time,” with design work slated to begin this summer.
City Councilwoman Barbara Warwick — she represents the 5th District, which includes three of the six bridges receiving funding — told the Union Progress that “it's great that these overdue investments are being made in the 31st Ward and Hazelwood.”
“As we've seen recently with both the Fern Hollow Bridge and Charles Anderson Bridge, maintaining the safety of our bridges is critically important for Pittsburghers,” she said. “The more proactive we can be with our infrastructure investments, the less reactive we need to be to emergency situations which disrupt daily life for residents.”
Funding was originally approved in February 2022 by a committee of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, the organization that links local infrastructure projects with money from federal and state governments. The projects, essentially the new kids on the block, have since had to wind their way through the arduous infrastructure process.
It’s possible that work on the bridges could have begun years earlier, had Pittsburgh paid for the work on its own.
Gas tax funds — money specifically intended for local infrastructure that could potentially be used to jump-start work on some of the dozens of city bridges in rough condition — have been piling up for years in the city’s coffers. For years, Pittsburgh regularly spent less than it received, and its gas tax account reached a high-water mark of nearly $12 million at the start of 2021, the Union Progress exclusively reported earlier this week.
Maria Montaño, a spokesperson for Mayor Ed Gainey, told the Union Progress that it’s “possible in theory” to use the current surplus to expedite bridge projects, but that could get complicated for a variety of reasons. She added that city officials re-evaluate every year how to best spend Pittsburgh’s gas tax money.