PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It was a quicker, smoother commute Tuesday for many in the South Hills thanks to the reopening of the Liberty Bridge, but some vehicles have already violated the span’s new weight limit.
It was Sept. 2 when fire damaged an important component of the bridge. Repairs began immediately, but PennDOT had to keep pushing back the reopening date.
Then, Monday afternoon, more than three weeks after the fire, the bridge suddenly reopened, but with weight restrictions, leading some to worry about safety.
No sooner had drivers returned to the Mon River crossing, the questions of confidence intensified.
“It’s a little shaken, a little bit shaken,” said one commuter using the Liberty Bridge.
Part of that is due to the reports right after the fire of the vulnerability of the bridge; they were words that have proven lasting. But PennDOT officials are offering reassuring words.
“Trust me; we wouldn’t have reopened the bridge if it wasn’t safe,” said PennDOT District 11 Executive Dan Cessna.
The restriction to only nine tons has left a lot of people wondering about what they drive.
“Most cars weigh a ton and a half, 3,000 to 4,000 pounds, a typical SUV,” said Cessna. “So, the general motorist driving their vehicle doesn’t have to worry about that.”
But commercial drivers do need to worry and avoid the bridge because PennDOT is serious about the restriction and already had state police citing violators on Tuesday.
One driver asked on the KDKA Facebook page: “What happens when there is a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam on bridge?”
“The bridge can handle a lot of vehicles. It can be full of vehicles, and that’s not a problem,” Cessna says. “It’s just the way the weight is distributed.”
Cessna says a heavy truck exerts more force on the bridge, and that is why the weight restriction is in place until the reinforcing work on the bridge is completed.
“Anyone driving a commercial vehicle needs to pay attention,” says Cessna. “This nine ton weight limit is serious and we’re posting it for the safety and health of the bridge.”