Editorial | Pittsburgh needs better infrastructure now


Clare Sheedy | Assistant Visual Editor

President Joe Biden speaks on Friday at Carnegie Mellon University’s Mill 19 to tout his administration’s investment in infrastructure.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

The Fern Hollow Bridge collapsed Friday morning, resulting in 10 people being injured and four sent to the hospital. Located mere minutes from campus, the imminent danger of America’s aging infrastructure hit very close to home.

Coincidentally, the collapse lined up with President Joe Biden’s arrival in Pittsburgh the very same morning, where he spoke about national infrastructure here for the second time since his term began. Biden recognized the shoddy structural integrity of many of our nation’s roads and bridges — and he chose the perfect location to address this issue.

Remember the Port Authority bus that succumbed to a massive sinkhole in 2019? Apparently our state and local governments learned nothing from this stint with poor infrastructure crumbling beneath their constituents’ feet. As of last year, Pennsylvania is ranked 44th in the country for infrastructure.

This all comes after revenue from Pennsylvania’s pricey fuel tax, intended to raise money to repair bridges, was diverted to the state police. Billions of dollars — $4.2 billion over six years, to be exact — intended to prevent calamities like the one that occured over the weekend in Frick Park were never reallocated, and now we have to live with the fear that these problems will still be ignored and more structures will break.

Diverting funds meant to fix our travel routes doesn’t just hurt people like those injured in the Fern Hollow collapse, but also public trust in the government to fix the issues we all experience directly or indirectly. This seems even more true when people like former Mayor Bill Peduto criticizes a problem he could have had a direct hand in repairing.

Infrastructure spending advocates noted that thousands of bridges across the country also have poor designation, and many said funding has not kept up with the need for repairs and replacements. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s 2021 report details that 220,000 of the country’s bridges 36% need repair work.

“The engineers have been working to repair as much as they can. Safety and keeping safe bridges open is the goal, but the struggle is related to the insufficient funding that goes into repairing the aging infrastructure in this country, including bridges,” said Jerome Hajjar, a professor and department chair at Northeastern University’s College of Engineering.

As factors like age and exposure to climate change affect structures season after season, Pittsburgh’s C- infrastructure grade — as determined by a 2018 report — isn’t on track to get better. The basis for our travel must take precedence or else we’re just waiting for the next thing to crumble or sink. Pittsburgh, and cities across the country, need better infrastructure now.