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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4:13 p.m. ET, January 28, 2022

Biden touts infrastructure law in Pittsburgh: "We're already making tangible differences"

From CNN's Leinz Vales

President Biden said the bipartisan infrastructure package he signed into law last year is “already making tangible differences.”

"Now just 74 days after signing that law, we're already making tangible differences for highways, ports, high speed internet, clean air, clean water," Biden said in a speech in Pittsburgh. "That includes $1.6 billion over the next five years for Pennsylvania to repair its bridges."

Biden spoke about revamping roads, bridges and airports just hours after after a snow-covered bridge collapsed that left several people injured.

"More than 3,300 bridges across Pennsylvania and over 7,500 miles of highway in poor condition," Biden said. "It also means jobs, replacing led water pipes so families in ten million homes and in 400,000 schools and child care centers can drink clean water, not lead based. Jobs providing the labor and infrastructure making high speed internet affordable and available everywhere in America. Cities, suburban and rural areas so that nobody is left behind."

3:49 p.m. ET, January 28, 2022

Pittsburgh bridge collapse highlights need to rebuild US infrastructure, Biden says

President Biden said the bridge collapse in Pittsburgh today underscores the importance of rebuilding infrastructure in America.

Biden said it's "unacceptable" that 45,000 bridges across the country are classified to be in poor condition.

Last week, Biden announced a new program to repair and replace the nation's bridges through funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law that passed Congress in November.

"This is the first time in the country's history that we dedicated [a] national program to repair and upgrade bridges. It's about time. The governor can tell you we're giving state and local leaders historic funding to make national projects real. Here in Pennsylvania, that means at least $1.6 billion for bridges alone. $327 million in 2022 alone just to repair bridges," the President said while making remarks in the city.  

"We saw today when a bridge is in disrepair, it literally can threaten lives. ... We're going to rebuild that bridge, along with thousands of other bridges in Pennsylvania and across the country, because it's in our interest for [our] own safety sake and it generates commerce in a way that we can't do now. That's part of how we're going to build a better America," Biden said.

4:34 p.m. ET, January 28, 2022

Pennsylvania's Allegheny County executive: "We've got a lot of needs" when it comes to bridges

From CNN's Athena Jones and Sharif Paget

Rich Fitzgerald, the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, executive, told CNN it could take "at least a year" to get the collapsed Pittsburgh bridge fixed.

He also said his county has "a lot of needs" when it comes to the hundreds of bridges located there.  

"We’re the city of bridges,” Fitzgerald said, who estimates that Allegheny County has 500 bridges. “We’ve got a lot of needs. The irony is that today, President Biden was coming here to talk about the infrastructure bill," he added.

“Do we need infrastructure in America? Yes, we do, and this shows why,” Fitzgerald added, referring to the investment necessary to make improvements.

He said fixing the bridge that collapsed Friday morning is a top priority, and state engineers from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation have provided an early best-case scenario estimate of "at least a year" to get it up and running.

In the meantime, Fitzgerald, who confirmed the bridge collapsed at around 6:40 a.m. ET, said having the bridge out will be a "major, major inconvenience” to the people who rely on it.

This is the second major bridge collapse in recent years, said Fitzgerald, noting that in April 2018 a section of Route 20 collapsed in East Pittsburgh.

2:33 p.m. ET, January 28, 2022

Biden pledges to fix crumbling bridges: "This is going to be a gigantic change"

From CNN's Sam Fossum

While visiting the site of the collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh, President Biden praised police officers on scene and said that the administration is continuing to send more money to repair bridges and pay first responders.   

"We're going to fix them all. Not a joke, this is going to be a gigantic change. There's 43,000 nationwide. And we're sending the money," Biden said, referring to the more than 43,000 bridges in poor condition across the nation. "And by the way, we're going to give you guys more money too — the cops."

Earlier this month Biden, announced a new program to repair and replace the nation's bridges through funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law that passed Congress in November. 

Biden also talked about how many bridges exist in Pittsburgh, and he asked a police officer about the concerns earlier about a gas leak.  

“I've been coming to Pittsburgh a long time, and as a former Pennsylvanian, but I didn't realize that there are literally more bridges in Pittsburgh than in any other city in the world," Biden added.

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.”