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Pittsburgh's 3-Year Liberty Bridge Rehab Complete

Monday, September 24, 2018

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The three-year, $82 million rehabilitation of Pittsburgh’s Liberty Bridge, which came to a halt for weeks in September 2016 after a worksite fire compromised the span’s integrity, has come to a close, only nominally over budget and slightly past its original projected deadline.

The bridge project, which saw the replacement of structural steel, repainting, deck replacement and fixes like new railings and updated lane-control signage, sparked a 24-day full closure of the bridge after the Sept. 2, 2016, fire. Investigators later reported that hot work ignited corrugated plastic piping on the jobsite, which in turn lit containment tarps that melted a steel chord on the bridge’s understructure.

Liberty Bridge after fire
Technology Publishing Co. 

The fire in September 2016 damaged a crucial chord of the bridge, sparking a 24-day full closure. 

The chord that was damaged was one of the span’s most crucial pieces, and the damage from the fire reduced its loading capacity from 2.4 million pounds of pressure to 2 million. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which oversaw the project, initially levied $3 million in fines for contractor Joseph B. Fay, of Tarentum, Pennsylvania, but those fines were later greatly reduced in exchange for an accelerated work schedule that largely got the project back on its original timeline.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration slapped Fay with a $11,224 fine over the conditions that led to the fire, a number that was later reduced to $7,500 as part of an informal settlement, according to OSHA records.

According to PennDOT,  the $5 million cost of repairs after the fire was covered by the contractor and by insurance.

Bridge Background

The 90-year-old Liberty Bridge became an emblem of the United States’ insufficient infrastructure when it was featured on the television newsmagazine 60 Minutes in 2014; its weight restriction was reduced in 2013 due to concerns about wear on the structure.

Painting subcontractor Avalotis Corporation performed surface preparation and coating work, which saw a change from the bridge’s previous paint job, in the city’s signature Aztec gold, to a muted tan. PennDOT’s Jason Zang told KDKA-TV the change came to tie the bridge in more with the adjacent Crosstown Boulevard.

The project had been estimated to finish in July, but some work was pushed back through mid-September. The $82 million final price is less than two percent greater than the original anticipated cost of $80.5 million.

Minor work on railings will continue through January, according to PennDOT, but substantial work is complete.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Completed projects; Fire; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Safety

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