Tuesday, October 3

Pittsburgh bridge collapses hours before Biden’s infrastructure speech in the city | Pennsylvania

It would be hard to imagine a more dramatic way to illustrate America’s need for infrastructure investment than Joe Biden would speak about on Friday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Hours before his visit and just four miles from where the president was scheduled to speak, one of Pittsburgh’s major automobile bridges collapsed.

At approximately 7 a.m., the 477-foot-long bridge at Forbes Avenue collapsed, leaving a mass of twisted concrete and metal debris as a visual metaphor for America’s crumbling infrastructure.

At least 10 people were injured, three of whom were taken to hospital, and a bus and several cars were stranded in the rubble. Rescuers had to rappel 150 feet down the slope to reach the injured people, according to the Pittsburgh Post.

Vehicles are stranded after the bridge collapse.
Vehicles are stranded after the bridge collapse. Photograph: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

“If this had happened an hour later, this is a road that probably gets about 15,000 cars a day, and if it was rush hour, we’d be looking at a couple hundred cars in that valley.” saying Corey O’Connor, Pittsburgh City Councilman. “We were very, very lucky today, and we hope that people in the hospital will recover quickly and be safe at home in the days to come.”

“The president is grateful to the first responders who rushed to help drivers who were on the bridge at the time,” the White House said in a statement.

Mike Doyle, a member of the Democratic Congress from the Pittsburgh area, saying the bridge collapse was a “tragic example of why the infrastructure bill that Congress just passed is needed. We should constantly invest more in our infrastructure so that our bridges and other public works do not reach this point of deterioration.”

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The timing of the disaster was amazing. Biden was visiting Pittsburgh to promote his $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that he signed into law in November after it passed Congress with exceptionally rare bipartisan support.

The bill is designed to inject much-needed resources into repairing the country’s key infrastructure, including roads, railways, potable water, and bridges. Under the scheme, Pennsylvania is earmarked for $1.63 billion of federal funds specifically for bridge improvements.

The Forbes Avenue Bridge itself told a story. The structure was built in 1972, putting its age (52) years above the national average of 44 years for US bridges. A recent report by city inspectors found that both the deck and the superstructure below the road were in poor condition.

That story is one that is being repeated across the country. Years of inadequate public investment have allowed critical buildings and networks to age and deteriorate. Six people were killed in a catastrophic bridge collapse in Miami, Florida, in 2018.

Emergency vehicles are parked at the edge of the collapsed bridge.
Emergency vehicles are parked at the edge of the collapsed bridge. Photograph: Gene J Puskar/AP

Last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers surveyed the US infrastructure landscape and gave it a C-minus. The report indicated that of the 617,000 bridges in the country, 42% were at least 50 years old and more than 46,000, or 7.5%, were structurally deficient and in poor condition.

According to the society’s calculations, the US needs not only an emergency injection of funds to rehabilitate its bridges, but also a regular increase in investment from the current $14 billion to $23 billion annually.

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Once again, Pennsylvania tells the story. The state ranks fourth in the national league table for the proportion of its bridges that are structurally deficient. It has 15% of its bridges in poor condition, after Rhode Island (22%), Iowa (19%) and South Dakota (17%).

Pittsburgh politicians made the connection between the Forbes Avenue Bridge collapse and Biden’s visit. The city’s mayor, Ed Gainey, said they were lucky not to have had any fatalities, adding: “We know we have bridges that we need to take care of.”

With Biden visiting on the same day as the disaster “to talk about this infrastructure bill and why this funding is so important, today is important,” Gainey said.

The infrastructure bill was one of the rare instances in recent times, and during the Biden presidency, when minimal agreement was reached between the two major parties. The package passed the House of Representatives in November by a 228-206 vote, with the support of 13 Republicans.

Shortly after the Senate gave its blessing with 69 votes against 30clearing away the 60-vote filibuster that has so often strangled Biden initiatives.


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