City Council approves infrastructure bills in wake of Fern Hollow Bridge collapse

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh City Council approved three measures addressing the city’s infrastructure during a public meeting Wednesday.

The council unanimously approved an ordinance that will establish a commission of infrastructure experts to review and report on Pittsburgh’s bridges, tunnels and other major structures.

Leaders also all voted in favor of a resolution that directs the mayor to oversee the “equitable distribution of infrastructure funds.”

But when it came to a third matter, a transparency bill, there was spirited discussion.

Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess chose to abstain from voting on the ordinance, which will establish a public database allowing residents to easily access infrastructure reports.

“This information was already publicly available,” Burgess said. “But we have decided now to compile it and put it in one form. That means, we are also now responsible for fixing.”

The ordinances all come in wake of the Fern Hollow Bridge collapse.

Burgess indicated that publicized infrastructure problems will need to be prioritized, and finding the funding is critical.

“There’s really, at the end of the day, only two things we can do, and that’s either, we’re going to somehow raise property taxes or we’re going to find new funding streams,” he said.

Burgess expressed opposition to raising property taxes, and also stated he would strongly oppose pulling money from funds meant for things like affordable housing and initiatives to “reimagine the police.”

Several other council members chimed in, discussing ways to potentially raise money needed for infrastructure repair.

Councilman Daniel Lavelle said that the city could consider looking at “chronically underassessed properties” as a source for new revenue.

In the end, every member but Burgess voted in favor of the ordinance, which was introduced by Councilman Corey O’Connor.

“We met with the law department, we’re obviously not breaking any city ordinances and we’re not doing any harm to the public,” O’Connor told Channel 11. “We’re giving them information. This is about transparency and we as a council want to be transparent, we want to get information out to the public. It’s their right to know and I think that’s something that will be good in future infrastructure conversations and hopefully build some stability in our infrastructure and some confidence in our future designs and builds of future infrastructure.”