Photo courtesy of Joseph B. Fay Company
Construction on the Liberty Bridge
Pittsburgh commuters’ struggle with the Liberty Bridge’s impromptu repairs from a 1,200-degree fire over Labor Day weekend may be over, but don’t expect an end to the traffic jams any time soon.
The fire came after a torch-wielding worker accidentally lit a tarp on fire; the 88 year-old structure is the subject of a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation rehabilitation project contracted out to Joseph B. Fay Company. The blaze warped a truss supporting the bridge, necessitating the bridge’s closure for repairs, and backing up traffic throughout the city.
While the bridge reopened to traffic on Sept. 26, the rehab continues, and commuters can expect further delays from planned closures of the bridge and surrounding roads.
The rehab project began in August 2015 and is scheduled to be finished in July 2018. Despite the traffic closure due to the fire, Dennis Watkins, the vice president of operations at Joseph B. Fay Co, says the project as a whole hasn’t been delayed.
“We didn’t have to shut our work down entirely. We were able to work in other areas [of the bridge],” Watkins says, mentioning the company's sub-contractors started work the day after the fire, on unaffected areas of the bridge. “Hopefully by late October, early November, we should have all lanes open on the Liberty Bridge.”
Repairs will then stop for the winter, before picking back up in 2017. Five weekends of lane closures are already planned for spring, as well as intermittent night work and a closure of the Boulevard of the Allies for 80 days to repair the bridge overpass of the artery.
The fire is currently being investigated by the federal government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but the results aren't expected for a few months. In spite of the fire, Joseph B. Fay Co., which is also in charge of the Birmingham Bridges’s ongoing repairs, is confident in its safety precautions.
“We’re obviously enforcing them and making sure they’re being adhered too,” Watkins said. “But we’re really not changing policies or programs because they were already in place.”
No one was hurt in the fire, and Joseph B. Fay Co. is paying for the extra repairs itself, along with a $213,000 fee for every day the bridge was closed to traffic.