Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has brought together an extensive team to devise and implement measures to make the bridge safe.
“The Herculean efforts of our entire team continues around-the-clock,” said PennDOT district exectutive Daniel Cessna. “This is not a textbook situation, so in developing a repair procedure is a theoretical debate regarding how to perform this work. To accomplish this task we have local engineering firms SAI and HDR and technical experts within PennDOT, industry and academia.”
The fire led to the closure to traffic of the bridge on the afternoon of Friday 2 September. Crews have inspected the damaged chord and continue around-the-clock monitoring.
Following the fire, the preliminary design for the temporary bridge repair were developed overnight by consulting engineers. Repairs began on Sunday 4 September and PennDOT anticipates the temporary repair will be completed by 12 September, enabling the bridge to reopen to traffic.
A report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (link opens in new tab) quoted PennDOT's bridge engineer Lou Ruzzi as saying that the bridge would have collapsed if the fire had not been put out quickly. He estimated that it would certainly have come down if the fire had continued for another 30 minutes and may have collapsed sooner. The report said that the fire was caused by sparks from a welder's torch during work taking place during the bridge's renovation.