- Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf re-upped his calls for infrastructure funding after the Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh collapsed on Jan. 28, according to a release from the governor's office. The incident injured 10 motorists, including four people who were sent to the hospital.
- The bridge, which fell on the same day that President Joe Biden was in town to deliver remarks on the recently passed infrastructure act, led a bus and cars to plummet 100 feet down a hillside and caused a major gas leak, the governor said on Twitter. Biden joined Wolf at the site of the failure later that day.
- Currently, the National Transportation Safety Board and Pennsylvania DOT are investigating the incident, and NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy told reporters Jan. 29 at the site of the accident that it would be a "long, technical investigation." A final report could take between 12 to 18 months to produce, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Wolf said in the release that Pennsylvania's infrastructure had been "ignored for decades" and that the collapse was a warning that the state would need to heed in order to prevent future tragedies. The state expects to receive more than $15.5 billion in funding from the infrastructure act, including an estimated $1.6 billion for bridge repairs.
"The federal investments coming to Pennsylvania are significant, but they simply won't fully fund our multi-billion-dollar infrastructure funding gap, which continues to grow," Wolf said in the release, adding that the government needed to come together across party lines to establish long-term lifelines for infrastructure funding.
Engineers who spoke to the Pittsburge Post-Gazette underscored both the bridge's poor inspection rating and the way it collapsed — in the center of the span — as definite signs that there were long-standing issues.
"The way it is looking, I think the Achilles heel, the last straw, is the joints," said Hota GangaRao, an engineering professor and director of the Constructed Facilities Center at West Virginia University, in an interview with the Post-Gazette. "The way it collapsed makes it look like the bridge came loose from the abutment."
The incident put a spotlight on the region's aging infrastructure. With 732 spans, Pittsburgh has the highest number of bridges within city limits in the world, according to Reuters. In the U.S., 44,000 bridges across the country are in "poor" condition, per the U.S. Department of Transportation's 2021 National Inventory, and approximately 3,353 of these bridges are located in Pennsylvania, the second-most of any state, according to the Erie Times-News.
"We've got to get on with it. We've got to move. The next time, we don't need headlines saying that someone was killed when the next bridge collapses," Biden said.