Debris continues to fall off Pittsburgh bridge despite city installing netting

PITTSBURGH — Concrete and rusty metal are still falling off the California Avenue Bridge despite the City of Pittsburgh installing new netting a few months ago.

“I heard it falling,” said Marcie Kemmler. “And it hits the fence.”

Marcie Kemmler keeps picking up the pieces.

“Some of the cement and the rebar up in the sidewalk is coming down, but a lot of the debris that is falling is from the beams and the metal and the rust,” said Kemmler. “And its bolts. It’s frightening, and it’s heavy metal.”

Her family restaurant, Don’s Diner, sits almost directly under the California Avenue Bridge.

“Up here, it’s a nightmare,” said Kemmler. “Everything is all rust.”

Channel 11 first spoke to Kemmler back in January. At that point, she told us she had been fighting for safety improvements for two years. In March, the City of Pittsburgh added this fence to prevent cars from parking underneath the bridge. They also secured this netting under the sidewalks.

“I understand that they can only do so much,” said Kemmler. “They got that net, and believe me, I appreciate it. Everyone in the neighborhood does, but that’s not solving anything. It’s just getting worse.”

In certain sections, you can see through the net to the sky where concrete is missing from the sidewalk above. Kemmler says she’s also concerned about the base of the bridge here.

“My main concern is there is a waterfall pouring down that hillside every time it rains,” said Kemmler. “And that hillside is corroding. You touch it, and it just crumbles.”

She hopes someone from the city will take this seriously and would also like to see netting added to the entire length of the bridge.

“I appreciate the small net, but it’s not doing its job,” said Kemmler. “It’s really not.”

The city says the bridge is still scheduled for a full rehab, but construction is not scheduled to start until late 2025. The next routine inspection is set for September.

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office released the following statement to Channel 11:

“The netting installed in late-February covered the underside of the sidewalks and the gutterline, the areas most impacted by deteriorating metal and concrete, while the truss and deck, which are in fair shape, remained uncovered. It is possible that small particulate could escape capture by the netting or that chipped paint is separating from the uncovered areas.

“The bridge is inspected every six months, with the nets being closely observed and cleaned of material if necessary. The next inspection is scheduled for September 2023. Some upcoming sidewalk work is planned, with of course the full rehab anticipated in 2025. In the meantime, the City continues to monitor the structure closely.”

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