PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – PennDOT says the last of the 150-or-so pieces of fabricated steel parts needed to fix the fire-damaged Liberty Bridge are now in Pittsburgh, and prep work to make repairs is well underway.
PennDOT District 11 Executive Dan Cessna said, “Our goal is to reopen the bridge Monday morning; but if the bridge is not safe, we would delay that, if necessary.”
The repair project has been well planned by engineers, the contractor and outside experts.
“We would expect the full [repair] assembly to be in place by Friday, with preparations for the so-called jacking procedure to follow,” Cessna said. “The jacking will actually move the bridge a small amount, maybe one or two inches, to redistribute the load and to make the bridge safe.”
He admitted the jacking process has some unknowns, but PennDOT has brought in experts to help in making the fix.
PennDOT originally said the bridge repairs would be complete this week. But, when the delivery of the new beam was delayed, the bridge re-opening was pushed back to at least Sept. 19.
The bridge was closed Sept. 2 when it was badly damaged by a fire. A worker accidentally lit some of the tarps on fire, which quickly spread, buckling a beam as the heat intensified.
“We were minutes away from a collapse, based on the temperatures, which had to be over 1,200 degrees,” says Lou Ruzzi, an Engineer for PennDOT. “We knew right at that time that we had to get traffic off the bridge.”
The contractor working on the bridge says his crews are working non-stop to get the repairs done safely.
He said it was challenging to make modern day fixes to a bridge that was built back in 1928.