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Bridge collapse welcomes Biden to Pittsburgh

Accident provides not-so-subtle backdrop ahead of speech touting need for infrastructure investment

Forbes Avenue bridge over Frick Park in Pittsburgh. (Photo: WPXI)

A bridge in Pittsburgh collapsed hours before President Joe Biden was expected to arrive there on Friday to deliver remarks on “strengthening the nation’s supply chains,” according to the White House.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which Biden signed in November, is to be the main topic of his speech Friday afternoon at Carnegie Mellon University, just miles from where the accident occurred along Forbes Avenue, a four-lane road considered a main artery through the city.

Watch: Drone footage over collapsed Forbes Avenue bridge

CNN reported that four vehicles were on the bridge when it fell and that teams were performing reconnaissance to ensure no one was under the bridge when it collapsed. Local news was reporting no deaths and 10 minor injuries as of 10:30 a.m. Friday.

Biden is aware of the collapse and plans to proceed with his trip, according to CNN.

“The Forbes Avenue bridge collapse is a major challenge for our community. It will disrupt transportation in PGH for months at least,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who is in Kansas City, Kansas – also to promote infrastructure – said in a tweet that he is “closely monitoring the situation at Frick Park Bridge” and that his department is in touch with the Pennsylvania DOT.

The timing of the collapse coincides with other administration priorities as well.

It occurred weeks after the administration announced a $27 billion bridge repair and replace program — the first funding to be rolled out under the BIL — in which Pennsylvania ranked third among state allocations. It follows Thursday’s unveiling of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s zero-fatality road safety strategy, which includes ensuring that money from DOT’s Highway Safety Improvement Program is deployed to make roads more safe. 

And on Friday morning, DOT announced $1.5 billion in Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grants, a 50% increase in funding over last year for modernizing infrastructure, principally roads and bridges.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.