PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Drivers, get ready for some not-so-good news from PennDOT: there’s been another setback in the efforts to repair the fire-damaged Liberty Bridge.
It’s certainly not good news for the thousands of drivers who’ve had to find new routes into and out of the city for nearly three weeks now. There’s still a lot of work to be done, so crews are hoping to make more progress Wednesday.
Tuesday started with great anticipation of raising the repair beam into place, only to see an order come to evacuate the bridge at mid-morning. An engineer thought the bridge had shifted.
“We had a false alert from a reading, so as a safety precaution, we would make those moves,” PennDOT Dist. 11 executive Dan Cessna said, “but ultimately, there was no issue, thank goodness.”
The fact is the bridge has only moved with the normal thermal heating and cooling of the steel each day since the fire on Sept. 2, so crews were able to return to getting the repair beam ready to lift.
Throughout the day, there were a lot of welders’ arc lights showing from the barge, but no lifting, and as the afternoon wore on, it became clear that lifting would not come Tuesday after all, due to issues getting the connections ready.
They are hopeful the beam can be put into place on Wednesday.
“We would be hopeful that would advance tomorrow, but again, until we get through the iteration process of these connections, we won’t know for sure,” Cessna said.
But even when the beam is up, the jacking of the bridge – moving it two inches back into its original position – is a tedious and time-consuming process. So much so, there will be a dry run the day before the jacking begins.
“All people get into position, and they talk through the process without actually physically performing the process,” Cessna said. “It’s a safety process.”
The moves come in eighth-of-an-inch increments, and no one is sure how long that is going to take, but Tuesday’s delays mean one more day delay getting the bridge back open. As that continues, drivers’ frustrations mount.
“We know it’s affecting people everywhere, so please know we’re striving with the contractor to get this reopened as soon as we safely can,” Cessna said.
The bridge was supposed to reopen at the beginning of the week, but officials delayed it for a second time due to the complex repairs.
Earlier this month, a worker accidentally lit some of the tarps on the bridge on fire during its rehab project.