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In the wake of the Pittsburgh bridge collapse, many questioning safety of bridges across the region

PITTSBURGH — The Fern Hollow Bridge, previously rated a poor-condition bridge, collapsed Friday.

Runners and walkers are still feeling the after-effects today. Greg Barnhisel runs and walks the area of the Fern Hollow Bridge daily. But he wasn’t there Friday because of the time and weather.

“That’s one kind of blessing. There have been fewer runners here. It’s hard to run in the park when there’s so much broken ice under the snow so a lot of people avoid it,” said Barnhisel.

He’s now stunned looking back at the images he captured of its collapse, which left ten people injured.

“The roaring was like standing next to a jet engine and the smell of gas was just overwhelming. It was sickening,” said Barnhisel.

He’s one of many Pittsburghers now questioning the safety of our bridges.

Channel 11 has learned that one in eight bridges in Pennsylvania is rated in “poor” condition. PennDOT records show at least 175 state- and locally- owned bridges are in “poor” condition. The Fern Hollow Bridge is 1 of 80 locally-owned bridges in Allegheny County in “poor” condition.

Penn Dot confirms that the city posted the bridge to limit the weight of single loads at 26 tons, and the bridge was posted with that max weight back on July of 2014.

11 Investigates pulled the condition status for a dozen of the most driven bridges in the city. The Fort Pitt and Veterans Bridge are in good or satisfactory condition. Five are in fair condition and include the West End, Smithfield Street, Liberty, Hot Metal and 16th Street bridges. Two are in poor condition: the Birmingham and Fort Duquesne bridges.

“That’s a real concern because that’s a major alley that people take to go from the point over to the Northside to the point over to the stadium. Walkers and runners use that all the time!” said Barnhisel.

Channel 11 reached out to Mayor Ed Gainey’s office by phone, trying to get answers. We asked for the most recent inspection report from this September and a plan-of-action report regarding the Fern Hollow bridge. We were told to contact NTSB.

We also reached out to the Department of Mobility of Infrastructure. We have not heard back.

“We are so thankful that no one was killed, and no one was more seriously hurt, but I do hope this prompts the city and the state and the federal government to really invest in our bridges.”

The big question — what caused this bridge to collapse?

It’s still not clear.

Channel 11 reached out to NTSB for those reports, but we have not received them. NTSB is actively working to piece this together and will likely be here for the next several DAYS.

Stay with Channel 11 for the latest.