Surprise, surprise! The inspection system failed before the Fern Hollow Bridge did

Pittsburgh

Infrastructure

In January, the Fern Hollow Bridge on Forbes Avenue over a ravine in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park collapsed as a 21-ton articulated Port Authority Transit bus was crossing it. At least ten people were injured.[1] This is a major thoroughfare and therefore, one might assume, one that should not be neglected. Forbes Avenue remains closed between South Dallas Avenue and South Braddock Avenue; over $25 million in federal funding has been allocated for the bridge’s replacement.[2]

Despite ample evidence that the bridge’s steel structural support legs and cross-bracing were quickly deteriorating and failing, the inspectors kept intact the 26-ton weight limit that had been in place since 2014, writing: “Because the condition of the main load carrying members has not changed significantly, the 2014 Load Rating Analysis is still valid.”

Several engineering experts contacted by the Post-Gazette said they were troubled by the conclusions, saying the inspectors, their supervisors, the city and PennDOT should have taken into account the level of serious deterioration and re-examined the load rating.[3]

The bottom line here can’t be terribly surprising: The system of inspection by both the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the City of Pittsburgh failed before the bridge did[4] and this is the very same system that remains in use to ensure the safety of other bridges in Pittsburgh, and which I assume is similar to systems throughout Pennsylvania, where a great many other bridges, particularly in Allegheny County, are also rated in “poor” condition.[5]

Sam D. Hamill, “Fern Hollow Bridge was severely decaying before collapse, 2021 report indicates,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 19, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2022/05/19/fern-hollow-bridge-inspection-2021-report-severely-decaying-rust-corrosion-penndot/stories/202205190154


Ukraine

Lawrence Freedman, “When will Vladimir Putin realise it is time to cut his losses in Ukraine?” New Statesman, May 13, 2022, https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/ukraine/2022/05/war-in-ukraine-putin-losses

Ross Douthat, “There Are Two Endgames in Ukraine. Both Carry Big Risks,” New York Times, May 14, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/14/opinion/ukraine-russia-putin-biden.html

Natalia Drozdiak, “NATO Expansion Could Finally Shore Up Alliance’s Weakest Flank,” Bloomberg, May 14, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-05-14/ukraine-war-nato-expansion-could-finally-shore-up-alliance-s-weakest-flank

Liz Sly, “Russia is furious that Finland is joining NATO but can’t do much about it,” Washington Post, May 14, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/14/finland-russia-nato-ukraine-retaliation/

Joe Barnes, “Sweden’s bid to join Nato ‘shows Vladimir Putin’s aggression doesn’t pay,’” Telegraph, May 15, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2022/05/15/sweden-set-follow-finland-joining-nato-despite-threats-vladimir/

Bloomberg, “Ukraine Latest: NATO Embraces Sweden, Finland; US Aid Vote Nears,” May 15, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-05-15/ukraine-latest-nato-has-frank-talks-with-turkey-on-accession

Deutschewelle, “Finland officially announces support for NATO membership,” May 15, 2022, https://www.dw.com/en/finland-officially-announces-support-for-nato-membership/a-61803764

Deutschewelle, “NATO: Turkey outlines demands on Finland and Sweden membership,” May 15, 2022, https://www.dw.com/en/nato-turkey-outlines-demands-on-finland-and-sweden-membership/a-61806003

Kati Pohjanpalo and Niclas Rolander, “Finland, Sweden Set to Seek NATO Entry in Historic Shift,” Bloomberg, May 15, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-05-15/finland-sweden-set-to-apply-for-nato-entry-in-historic-shift

Richard Spencer, “Third of Russian invaders destroyed,” Times, May 15, 2022, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/third-of-russian-invaders-destroyed-002xrvfsq

Guardian, “Russians and Ukrainians battle around Izium as Sweden joins Finland in Nato bid,” May 16, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/16/russians-and-ukrainians-battle-around-izium-as-sweden-joins-finland-in-nato-bid

Jon Henley, “Turkey says it will not approve Sweden and Finland joining Nato,” Guardian, May 16, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/16/russia-finland-sweden-nato-ukraine-war

Matthew Karnitschnig, “Europe’s leaders fall out of key on Ukraine,” Politico, May 16, 2022, https://www.politico.eu/article/europes-leaders-fall-out-of-key-on-ukraine/

Jared Malsin, “Turkey Lays Out Demands as Finland, Sweden Plan NATO Entry,” Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/turkey-lays-out-demands-as-finland-sweden-plan-nato-entry-11652722492

John Revill, “Neutral Switzerland leans closer to NATO in response to Russia,” Reuters, May 16, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/markets/europe/neutral-switzerland-leans-closer-nato-response-russia-2022-05-15/

Julia Ioffe, “Putin’s Wood Chipper,” Puck News, May 17, 2022, https://puck.news/putins-wood-chipper/

Rozina Sabur and Nataliya Vasilyeva, “Wounded Ukrainian defenders rescued from Mariupol steelworks to be exchanged for captive Russians,” Telegraph, May 17, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2022/05/16/russia-says-willing-evacuate-wounded-ukrainian-troops-mariupol/

Emily Rauhala, “Finland and Sweden formally apply for NATO membership,” Washington Post, May 18, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/18/finland-sweden-nato-apply/

Patrick Wintour, “Why has Erdoğan doubled down on threat to veto Nordic Nato bids?” Guardian, May 18, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/18/erdogan-doubles-down-on-threat-to-veto-nordic-nato-membership

Thomas Grove and Matthew Luxmoore, “As Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Stalls, Critical Voices Emerge in Moscow,” Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/as-russias-invasion-of-ukraine-stalls-critical-voices-emerge-in-moscow-11652958665

Ishaan Tharoor, “Turkey’s awkward role in the Russia-Ukraine war,” Washington Post, May 20, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/20/turkey-ukraine-erdogan-russia-nato/


  1. [1]Ed Blazina et al., “‘A boom, then a monster sound’: 10 hurt after bridge over Pittsburgh’s Frick Park collapses,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 28, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2022/01/28/pittsburgh-bridge-collapse-forbes-braddock-avenue-point-breeze-squirrel-hill/stories/202201280075; Ryan Deto, “Crane pulls Port Authority bus from Frick Park bridge wreckage,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 31, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/public-viewing-area-opens-for-pittsburghs-collapsed-fern-hollow-bridge-as-cleanup-begins/; Brian C. Rittmeyer, Megan Guza, and Jason Cato, “10 injured in bridge collapse in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 28, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/frick-park-bridge-collapses-natural-gas-smell-in-area/
  2. [2]Julia Felton, “$25.3M in federal funding set aside to replace Pittsburgh’s collapsed Fern Hollow Bridge,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 1, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/25-3m-in-federal-funding-set-aside-to-replace-pittsburghs-collapsed-fern-hollow-bridge/; KDKA-TV, “Pittsburgh Bridge Collapse: PennDOT To Invest $25.3M To Rebuild Fern Hollow Bridge,” January 31, 2022, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2022/01/31/penndot-investment-rebuild-fern-hollow-bridge/
  3. [3]Sam D. Hamill, “Fern Hollow Bridge was severely decaying before collapse, 2021 report indicates,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 19, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2022/05/19/fern-hollow-bridge-inspection-2021-report-severely-decaying-rust-corrosion-penndot/stories/202205190154
  4. [4]Sam D. Hamill, “Fern Hollow Bridge was severely decaying before collapse, 2021 report indicates,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 19, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2022/05/19/fern-hollow-bridge-inspection-2021-report-severely-decaying-rust-corrosion-penndot/stories/202205190154
  5. [5]Ryan Deto, “12 infrastructure fails in the Pittsburgh region, including Fern Hollow Bridge,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 3, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/regional/12-infrastructure-fails-in-the-pittsburgh-region-including-fern-hollow-bridge/; Ryan Deto, “Allegheny County has plans to repair all of its poorly rated bridges,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 3, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/allegheny-county-has-plans-to-repair-all-of-its-poorly-rated-bridges/; Julia Felton, “‘It’s a resource problem’: 1 in 8 bridges in Pa. rated in ‘poor’ condition, records show,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 29, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/its-a-resource-problem-1-in-8-bridges-in-pa-rated-in-poor-condition-records-show/; Tony LaRussa, “Over 40 bridges in Alle-Kiski Valley are rated the same as span that collapsed in Pittsburgh,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 28, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/valley-news-dispatch/here-are-the-bridges-in-the-alle-kiski-valley-rated-the-same-as-span-that-collapsed-in-pittsburgh/; Charlie Wolfson, “Collapsed Pittsburgh bridge and 175 others rated poor in county drive home need for investment,” Public Source, January 28, 2022, https://www.publicsource.org/bridge-collapse-pittsburgh-allegheny-infrastructure-biden/

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