PITTSBURGH — Questions continue to loom over the safety of Pittsburgh-area bridges and what is being done to protect drivers and walkers, following the collapse of Fern Hollow Bridge.
Channel 11 took viewer concerns straight to PennDOT and asked about subsequent steps in place.
“Should Fern Hollow have been shut down and could this have been prevented? I can’t make those calls. I don’t know. We don’t know what caused the bridge collapse. The NTSB will probably be months away from providing our report,” said Cheryl Moon-Sirianni, district executive of PennDOT District 11.
As the investigation intensifies into the Fern Hollow collapse that injured ten people, PennDOT confirms $25 million has been secured to fix the bridge.
Those funds come from the National Highway Performance Program.
Moon-Sirianni said PennDOT has always taken inspections very seriously.
This latest incident has underscored the seriousness of the department’s work.
“We’re just making sure that some of the bridges that are very similar in nature to this are being field viewed right now and making sure we’re looking at anything that may raise a red flag on them,” Moon-Sirianni said.
Moon-Sirianni said PennDOT manages contracts with five area counties and the city of Pittsburgh for its bridge inspections.
Consultant inspectors normally perform these jobs.
On weight limits, she said PennDOT engineers determine load ratings and send out notification letters to all emergency agencies and municipalities for state bridges.
However, Fern Hollow was a city bridge that had a 26-ton weight limit since 2014.
Moon-Sirianni said she is aware of fears from drivers and walkers following the bridge’s collapse.
She called it a “tragic situation.”
She said PennDOT is working to get to the bottom of the issue and communicating directly with NTSB.
“The safety of the traveling public is our utmost importance. We have a very rigid bridge inspection program. We monitor it very closely. We have multiple engineers that review these inspector reports.”
Moon-Sirianni said she doesn’t want to commit to a time frame for when the bridge will be replaced and reopened.
For a bridge of this size and nature, Moon-Sirianni said replacement and reopening could take up to four years.
With weather and supply chain issues, the process could be even longer.
Channel 11 also reached out to NTSB for more details on the investigation.
A spokesperson said, “It is an active investigation in the very early stages. Right now we are focused on on-scene activities. The next communication will be a preliminary report in about two weeks or so.”
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