Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey announced Thursday that the city has reached an agreement with federal, state and regional officials to speed up plans to rehabilitate the Charles Anderson Bridge through Schenley Park.
The decision means the 780-foot bridge, which was closed for emergency repairs Feb. 1, will remain closed until the full rehabilitation is completed. But instead of that work beginning in 2025, it will go out for bids by the end of this year and construction could begin in early 2024.
The city closed the bridge last month after receiving an “updated structural analysis.” At the time, the city said emergency repairs would take at least four months and cost $1 million to $2 million.
Instead, through work with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration, the $48 million project has been moved up on the list of regional projects.
Cheryl Moon-Sirianni — the former PennDOT district executive for Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties, who was recently promoted to the statewide executive deputy secretary — said Friday it “just makes sense” to move the project up the funding ladder since preliminary work has been completed.
That type of change is “not unusual,” Moon-Sirianni said, but it often is done behind the scenes when one project is ready for bids before another.
“That project has been on the books since about 2018, so it’s well along in its design,” she said. “We looked at it and it doesn’t necessarily make sense to spend money on temporary repairs if it is almost ready.”
“It probably cuts about a year off of the timeline.”
Contrary to what the city said initially, work on Charles Anderson will not be similar to the replacement of Fern Hollow last year, where PennDOT took over construction on an emergency basis for the city and will turn it over to the city when the work is down. The city will remain in charge of the Anderson project on the advanced schedule.
“Over the past several weeks my team has been working diligently to find a path to accelerate the funding for this vital piece of our city infrastructure in order to find the best path forward to reopening the Charles Anderson Bridge,” the mayor said in a news release. “Through a partnership with PennDOT we will be able to move through the design and engineering phases as quickly as possible as we look to the full rehab project helping us take many months out of the projected timeline.”
“I am grateful for our partners at PennDOT, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, and the Federal Highway Administration for their support through this process and for working to aid us in removing barriers … to start work on this project sooner.”
The 780-foot bridge, which opened in 1938, carries about 20,000 vehicles a day on the Boulevard of the Allies through Schenley Park. It has been rated in poor condition since 2012 because of advanced deterioration of the concrete deck and advanced section loss throughout the structure, including at connection and weight-bearing areas.
Councilwoman Barbara Warwick, whose district includes the area around the bridge, said she is happy the full rehabilitation is being moved up.
“I hope getting the Charles Anderson Bridge done sooner rather than later means it will be done and won’t be closed at the same time as the Swinburne Bridge,” Warwick said.
Swinburne, a nearby bridge that carries Frazier Street over railroad tracks and Saline Street to Four Mile Run in lower Schenley Park, also needs major improvements. It has been listed in poor condition for nearly 15 years.
This story has been updated.