2 years after abrupt closure, plans to replace popular Swissvale bridge move forward

SWISSVALE, Pa. — It’s been a talker for two years in Swissvale: if and when the Washington Avenue Bridge will reopen. Now, there could be an end in sight.

For more than a decade, Vinson Mason has welcomed customers into his barber shop on Washington Avenue. But in the summer of 2022, he encountered something unexpected.

“I hear people saying they’re closing the bridge. I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was just something for a day or so and they were going to open back up…and here we are now,” Mason said.

Almost two years have passed since the bridge abruptly shut down, and while pedestrians are allowed to walk across to access the nearby Roslyn Station on the East Busway, the bridge is still shut down for drivers due to structural and safety concerns.

Mason told Channel 11 this has impacted business in the area.

“I had some roots already, so that helped me out with my established barbers, but as far as hiring a new barber straight out of school and establish walk-up traffic, it’s kind of hard,” Mason said.

“As people get used to obstructions, they just go about their business, and they find alternative ways to get around,” said Mark Zupsic of Swissvale.

Borough officials recently came to an agreement with Norfolk Southern, which owns the bridge, to move forward with plans to replace it. The company plans to pay for the bridge, along with sidewalks, lighting and detour signs.

Norfolk Southern says it is in the final stage of design, which will then have to be approved by Pennsylvania’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC). With a projected completion date of 2025, community members say they want to make sure the project moves forward.

“I think the most important thing here is letting people know they’re not forgotten about,” said Roman Mason, a community advocate. “I think a lot of times here in Pittsburgh, you’ll see projects go…left untouched often, and I don’t want to see this be one of those projects.”

Swissvale officials said once the bridge is built, ownership will be transferred to the borough. Norfolk Southern will still pay for maintenance like bridge washing and inspections for 15 to 20 years.

Download the FREE WPXI News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Channel 11 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch WPXI NOW

Comments on this article