Woman worries crumbling California Avenue bridge will be the next Fern Hollow

PITTSBURGH — For three years, Marcie Kemmler has been asking for safety improvements to the California Avenue Bridge. Next to her business, Don’s Diner, she has a bin full of pieces of concrete and rusty metal that have fallen from the bridge over the past several years. She also showed us a large chunk of concrete that recently fell with a screw sticking out of it.

“It’s going to be a repeat of the Fern Hollow,” Kemmler said. “I don’t want that to happen. I don’t think they’re taking it seriously.”

For close to a year, Channel 11 has reported on the rusty rebar and chunks of concrete crumbling down onto the road below. But Sunday, when we had heavy rainfall and hail, Kemmler says water was pouring down from the bridge, saturating the hillside and flooding Eckert Street below.

“I was standing out here and I couldn’t believe it,” Kemmler added. “You would hear the sound - it was like Niagara Falls.”

Kemmler even showed us where the stone was being chipped away by the water. This comes even after the city installed netting under some portions of the bridge to catch falling debris and put up a fence so people couldn’t walk under a part of the bridge.

“They said they would have to wait until it stopped raining to come out and that was on Sunday,” Kemmler added.

Kemmler said she never saw or talked to the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI). But the city says DOMI was on site Monday when it was determined the bridge and the street below appear to be safe. The city says DOMI is coordinating to have their contractor with access equipment on site so that they can get up close to investigate the problem with the drainage system and determine what repairs are needed.

Kemmler says the city also recently installed all new bike lanes and bike infrastructure. She believes funding should go to the crumbling bridge first. She also worries about what will happen when the temperatures dip lower. She says last winter, the falling concrete came down in larger chunks.

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