Pittsburgh Bridge collapses before Biden’s visit to discuss infrastructure

A bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh on Friday, just hours before US President Joe Biden flew to the city to discuss the nation’s infrastructure needs and promote the passage of a law to fund improvements to roads, bridges and other important facilities.

The White House said in a statement that Biden was still planning to visit the city and that his team was in touch with local officials who “continue to gather information on the cause of the collapse.” He has to give notes this afternoon.

Biden’s visit to the city of Western Pennsylvania comes three months after he signed a $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that won rare support from both parties for what the president called the most significant investment in roads and bridges in 70 years. years.

The bridge, which collapsed early Friday morning, has been described by local authorities as a major artery to the city, and Pennsylvania national inspectors have declared it in “poor” condition for years.

Aerial view of the collapsed bridge on Forbes Avenue in Pittsburgh © AP

The 50-year-old Forbes Avenue Bridge burst to pieces just before 7 a.m. on a cold, snowy day, blocking and then holding a public transportation bus. Photos from the scene show four vehicles in the gorge under the bridge.

Daryl Jones, head of the Pittsburgh Fire Bureau, said two passengers on the bus – which was on the verge of collapse – and its driver were evacuated by rescue workers, who descended about 100 to 150 feet into the gorge. . Authorities said a total of 10 people were injured, including first aiders who slipped on the icy hills.

UPMC, a health system in Pittsburgh, said four adults involved in the collapse of the bridge were being treated at two of the hospitals. Everyone was in good shape, said Andrea Kuniki, a spokeswoman for UPMC, in an email.

Jones said a “massive gas leak” had developed and gas supplies had been cut off for Pittsburgh’s East End households. The cause of the collapse is being “investigated,” Jones said.

Local and government officials arrived on the scene. Rich Fitzgerald, the executive director of Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located, said the White House and Tom Wolfe, the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, had called for updates. Pennsylvania was a key state in the 2020 presidential election, and by-elections for Congress have attracted a record number of candidates in some cases.

“Fortunately, injuries are not life-threatening at the moment,” Fitzgerald told a news briefing. But, he added, “a lot of work will have to be done.”

Adam Brandolf, a spokesman for the Allegheni Port Authority, said the bridge had collapsed in two different places. The 22-ton bus will probably have to be cut in half to be removed, he added.

Ed Gaine, the Democrat mayor of Pittsburgh, said the two-party road and bridge funding bill was “critical”.

“It’s important today,” he said. “At the end of the day, we could have been seriously injured. . . It is extremely important that we receive this funding. “

Transport investment accounts for more than half of the $ 550 billion in new spending the new law provides. The money will be spent over five years on roads, bridges and tunnels, as well as airports, broadband and other infrastructure improvements.

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