For the second time in a week, the overflowing Monongahela River has closed the area of the Parkway East in Downtown Pittsburgh known as “the bathtub.”

To address the situation, which occurs when water rises high enough to flood the Monongahela Wharf and overwhelms the flood wall, the federal Department of Transportation has awarded two grants this year worth $45.6 million, including $6.7 million this week.

Unfortunately, the extra money won’t result in the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation fixing the problem any sooner.

That’s because the project to expand the wall has been in preliminary engineering and won’t move to final design until later this year, said PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan. As a result, it probably won’t be put out for construction bids until summer or fall 2026.

Earlier this week, USDOT announced the second grant for the bathtub area as part of $830 million in grants awarded under the Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient and Cost-saving Transportation Discretionary Grant Program. The PROTECT program was established as part of the Biden administration’s infrastructure effort and set aside more than $50 billion to help local communities deal with problems created and made worse by climate change.

“This investment from the Biden-Harris administration will ensure our infrastructure is built to withstand more frequent and unpredictable extreme weather, which is vitally important for people and businesses that rely on roads and bridges being open to keep our economy moving,” Shailen Bhatt, Federal Highway Administration administrator, said in a news release.

Pennsylvania’s two senators, Democrats Bob Casey and John Fetterman, and local U.S. Reps. Chris Deluzio, D-Aspinwall, and Summer Lee, D-Swissvale, lauded the grant in their own news release.

 “This initiative not only secures the safety and efficiency of one of our key transport routes but also stands as a testament to our commitment to enhancing community resilience against climate impacts, creating jobs and promoting economic growth,” Lee said.

The bathtub area is a low point on the inbound lanes of the Parkway East as it passes through the Downtown area and has been prone to flooding for several decades. PennDOT officials have said the remedy is tricky and complex because just building a higher wall wouldn’t solve the problem and the additional volume of water on the wharf could create enough pressure underneath the highway to cause it to heave.

The bathtub was closed for several days last week by flooding. When the river quit rising, crews pumped water out of the area and hauled away mud and other debris. Heavy rain again this week closed the area Friday morning.

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at