Pittsburgh bridge collapses ahead of Biden city visit to talk infrastructure

By Aditi Sangal and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 4:38 p.m. ET, January 28, 2022
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2:28 p.m. ET, January 28, 2022

Biden visits site of collapsed Pittsburgh bridge

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

(Andrew Harnik/AP)
(Andrew Harnik/AP)

President Biden visited the bridge that collapsed this morning in Pittsburgh. 

Biden surveyed the damage, thanked first responders and spoke with state and local officials. 

Biden told reporters after landing in the state that he would be visiting the area ahead of his previously scheduled trip to talk about strengthening the nation's infrastructure, including rebuilding roads and bridges.

The White House said Biden spoke with the Pittsburgh mayor and Pennsylvania governor about the collapse earlier today.

Here's what Biden said to first responders at the bridge collapse scene earlier:

1:09 p.m. ET, January 28, 2022

Biden spoke with Pittsburgh mayor and Pennsylvania governor about bridge collapse, White House says

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Biden spoke with local officials following the morning collapse of a bridge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, ahead of his own trip to the area, where he is due to discuss revitalizing the nation’s roads and bridges among other topics.

Biden was briefed on the collapse and spoke with Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Sen. Bob Casey, who was with Wolf at the time of the President’s call, according to White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

“Our team remains in touch with state and local officials on the ground to on the ground on updates, and any additional assistance we can provide,” Jean-Pierre said.

Gainey said in a tweet that he looked forward to seeing Biden “soon.”

Jean-Pierre declined to provide a scheduling update on whether the President plans to visit the bridge.

“This is a tragic situation,” she said, expressing gratitude to the first responders.

“Too many bridges across the country are in poor condition,” she said when asked whether the President intended to address the collapse in his remarks, though the live feed of the in-flight gaggle cut out before the end of her response.

Once in Pittsburgh, Biden will visit Mill 19 for a tour of Carnegie Mellon's Manufacturing Futures Initiative, a manufacturing research and development project aimed at artificial intelligence, automation and robotics, Jean-Pierre said.

He will discuss economic progress, manufacturing jobs, US competitiveness abroad, infrastructure, and efforts to address supply chain bottlenecks, among other topics, during his remarks, Jean-Pierre added.

11:40 a.m. ET, January 28, 2022

Pittsburgh fire chief calls bridge collapse a "surprise"

From CNN’s Paradise Afshar 

Pittsburgh Fire Bureau Chief Darryl Jones told CNN that the city’s bridge collapse Friday morning was a “surprise.” 

“We do have people go out and inspect the bridges. As you know, Pittsburgh is the city of bridges. We have a lot of them, and they’re routinely inspected,” Jones said. “So, this one caught everyone by surprise this morning.”  

Ten people were injured, with three being transported to a hospital after the bridge collapsed just hours before President Biden was expected to visit the city on a previously scheduled trip to discuss infrastructure.

“And as far as the President coming today, how’s that for timing?” Jones said. “I personally hope that he does come and visit. And it’s one thing to talk about it and it’s another thing to actually see it.” 

Jones said rescue crews plan to drill holes into the bridge deck later in the day and use search cameras “just to make sure everyone is accounted for.” 

There have been no fatalities reported in the collapse. 

11:37 a.m. ET, January 28, 2022

She was shoveling snow 2 blocks from the bridge when she heard a crash. Here's what she saw.

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

(courtesy Jane Dudley)
(courtesy Jane Dudley)

Jane Dudley was shoveling snow at her house, two blocks from the entrance of Pittsburgh's Frick Park, when she heard a crash just after 6:30 a.m. ET.

After the crash, Dudley heard a loud roaring noise echoing out from the ravine in Frick Park, so she and her husband walked over.

Once there, Dudley saw the remains of the collapsed Forbes Avenue bridge that stretched across the park. It's also when she said she realized the roar was the sound of a broken natural gas pipeline. 

She took the following photos of the collapsed bridge. 

"It’s a major artery to our neighborhood," Dudley said. "It’s the only road that goes over the park."

Here's what Dudley saw when she got to the scene:

(courtesy Jane Dudley)
(courtesy Jane Dudley)

(courtesy Jane Dudley)
(courtesy Jane Dudley)

(courtesy Jane Dudley)
(courtesy Jane Dudley)

(courtesy Jane Dudley)
(courtesy Jane Dudley)

11:08 a.m. ET, January 28, 2022

"Our infrastructure is failing our people," Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman says

From CNN’s Paradise Afshar

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who was at the site of a bridge collapse in Pittsburgh this morning, called the disaster a “tragedy" and added that infrastructure can no longer be neglected ahead of President Biden's visit to the city.

“This collapse is just the latest in a long line of preventable, man-made disasters that prove what so many of us in Pennsylvania and around the country have been saying for years: Our infrastructure is failing our people. Our roads and bridges, which are supposed to connect us and bring us together, are increasingly putting us in danger,” he said. 

Fetterman also expressed support for the President’s infrastructure plan. Biden is scheduled to deliver remarks today not far from where the bridge collapsed on strengthening the nation's infrastructure.

“As a result of Biden’s infrastructure bill, the state is now getting $1.6 billion to repair bridges like this one,” he said. “Now more than ever, we need to get to work. We need to make use of the legislation President Biden ushered in, rebuild our roads and bridges, and fix our faulty infrastructure. In Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, and across America, we cannot afford neglect any longer. It’s time to rebuild this nation.” 

10:59 a.m. ET, January 28, 2022

National Transportation Safety Board sends team to Pittsburgh bridge collapse

From CNN's Greg Wallace

The National Transportation Safety Board says its sending a “go-team” to the bridge collapse, with chair Jennifer Homendy as the board member on scene.

The team will arrive this afternoon, the board tweeted.

11:28 a.m. ET, January 28, 2022

Collapsed bridge had been given overall "poor" rating by Pennsylvania's transportation department

From CNN’s Amanda Watts and Paul Murphy  

Vehicles are seen stranded after the bridge collapse in Pittsburgh on Friday.
Vehicles are seen stranded after the bridge collapse in Pittsburgh on Friday. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

The bridge that collapsed today in Pittsburgh had an “overall condition” rating of “poor," according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation website that tracks bridges across the state.

The bridge was built in 1970, was 447 feet long, and made of a steel rigid frame, the website says.   

The department's website says the deck condition was rated “4 - Poor,” the superstructure condition was also “4 - Poor,” and the substructure condition was rated “6 - Satisfactory.”

During a news conference earlier today, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey said it was last inspected September 2021. 

According to the state's Department of Transportation, the “Bridge condition is determined by the lowest condition rating of the primary components of a bridge or culvert.” 

“If the lowest rating is greater than or equal to 7, the bridge is classified as Good; if it is less than or equal to 4, the classification is Poor. Bridges rated 5 or 6 are classified as Fair,” the website explains.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman called the bridge a “vital artery” for the city on CNN’s New Day. 

“This bridge is a vital part of the infrastructure that gets the Eastern community in Squirrel Hill and into the city of Pittsburgh,” he said. “It crosses Frick Park, which is one of Pittsburgh's largest parks, and it's just a vital artery here in the city of Pittsburgh.” 

President Biden is expected to be in Pittsburgh later today to discuss infrastructure. 

“This is a horrible way to underscore just how critical our infrastructure needs are in this country because this is a vital artery in the Pittsburgh area,” Fetterman said. “It literally just collapsed and now we have a situation here… from a transportation standpoint, it's going to be incredibly difficult to imagine getting around the way this was given the bridge that is collapsed.” 

11:20 a.m. ET, January 28, 2022

Fire crews rappelled at least 100 feet to rescue victims

From CNN’s Paradise Afshar

Emergency personnel are seen at the edge of the bridge that collapsed in Pittsburgh on Friday.
Emergency personnel are seen at the edge of the bridge that collapsed in Pittsburgh on Friday. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

First responders used rescue equipment to rappel down about 100 to 150 feet to reach victims of today's bridge collapse in Pittsburgh, Fire Chief Darryl Jones said at a news conference this morning. 

At least 10 people suffered minor injuries in the bridge collapse, three of whom were taken to a hospital.

“It was handled as best as it could be handled,” Jones said of the rescue effort.

Jones said the cause of the collapse is under investigation. 

10:32 a.m. ET, January 28, 2022

What the bridge collapse looks like from above

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey said in a news conference today that no fatalities have been reported in the bridge collapse. 

Four vehicles were on the bridge when it fell, Jones said. Officials are still investigating what caused the collapse.  

The mayor shared an aerial image of the collapse on Twitter, thanking rescue teams for their "quick response."

See the photo:

CNN's Paul P. Murphy and Paradise Afshar contributed reporting to this post.