Work will begin next month on the complicated two-year process to replace the Commercial Street Bridge on the Parkway East.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation gave contractor Joseph B. Fay Co. of Pittsburgh’s North Side the go-ahead two weeks ago to begin work to build a new bridge beside the existing structure. In July 2026, when the new bridge is constructed, the interstate highway will be closed for up to 26 days while the old bridge is demolished and the new one is slowly slid into place.

Fay’s bid of $95 million was the lowest of three received for the project, which PennDOT had estimated at $112 million. A partnership of Trumbull Corp. and The Ruhlin Co. of Sharon Center, Ohio, bid $103.5 million and Brayman Corp. of Saxonburg bid $119.9 million.

John Myler, assistant construction manager for PennDOT’s District 11 that covers Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties, said the agency is “very pleased” with the bids. Construction costs have stabilized in the past six to eight months, he said, after a couple of years where inflation substantially increased costs.

The project should start by mid- to late July, Myler said, but the first work won’t be on the bridge itself. In fact, work on the bridge isn’t expected until early next year.

Instead, crews will work to lower the inbound Wilkinsburg exit ramp to Ardmore Boulevard because it will be a main detour route for inbound traffic when the Commercial Street Bridge is closed. Right now, the ramp doesn’t meet current design standards because there isn’t enough clearance under another ramp for taller large trucks.

That ramp is scheduled to be closed for 36 days.

In addition, crews will construct an access road from the right side of the highway down the hill to Commercial Street below and install environmental controls.

By mid-August, work should begin in Frick Park under the bridge to clear trees and brush. Then, crews will temporarily relocate Commercial Street and a trail under the current bridge so they can build the permanent substructure for the new bridge and the temporary substructure that will support the new bridge before it is moved onto the permanent substructure.

The parking lot for Nine Mile Run will remain open during construction.

“A lot of the stuff this year will be underneath,” Myler said. “There will be some impact on traffic, but not much.”

That impact could come during the winter when crews will install a retaining wall on the hillside under the Somerset at Frick Park housing development, on the left side of the highway approaching the Squirrel Hill Tunnel. Although the schedule hasn’t been set yet, Fay will have the option of reducing traffic to one outbound lane in that area overnight on weekends and until 2 p.m. on weekdays.

Major construction on the new bridge itself will begin early next year. Steel will be delivered at night to the outbound lanes of the highway just outside the tunnel. Commercial Street couldn’t accommodate the delivery trucks.

From there, it will either be lifted by a crane on Commercial Street and dropped down to the site or taken down via the access road.

“Early on, there was some concern that we could even get steel next year, but the supply has improved,” Myler said. “That would have pushed the closure of the parkway back to July 2026 because historically that month has the lowest traffic of the year.”

Myer said the 861-foot bridge itself is pretty typical construction, but precision will be extremely important because it must match perfectly with the substructure when it is moved into place. That process will begin in early July 2026, when the parkway will be closed first for demolition of the existing bridge, followed by debris removal and sliding the new bridge into place.

Michelle Olszewski, Fay’s senior project manager, said the company will bring in a subcontractor that specializes in moving construction projects using computer programs and hydraulics to slide the bridge into place.

“We have a 26-day window to get this done,” Olszewski said. “There’s the technology of the slide. Everything has to line up in the best way possible.”

This is Fay’s largest project that involves building a bridge at another location and moving it into place, Olszewski said. She said the company is “excited” it got the contract for such an innovative project.

Myer said the contract has strong financial incentives for Fay to finish parts of the project ahead of schedule and penalties for missing key deadlines.

After the new bridge is in place, crews will put Commercial Street and the Frick Park trail back in place and remediate any damage done to the park landscape.

PennDOT and the contractor will hold a public meeting to discuss the construction schedule and what neighbors and motorists can expect during the work. That hasn’t been scheduled yet.

Cars pass under a bridge that carries the Parkway East over Commercial Street in Swisshelm Park, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)
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