By Andrea Shalal and Doina Chiacu PITTSBURGH (Reuters) -President Joe Biden stopped to look at a Pittsburgh bridge that collapsed just hours before his scheduled visit to the city on Friday, dramatically underscoring the urgency of his drive to rebuild the United States’ creaky infrastructure. Visibly moved, Biden gazed across a ravine over the buckled […]
Biden visits Pittsburgh bridge collapse site on trip to tout infrastructure funding
By Andrea Shalal and Doina Chiacu
PITTSBURGH (Reuters) -President Joe Biden stopped to look at a Pittsburgh bridge that collapsed just hours before his scheduled visit to the city on Friday, dramatically underscoring the urgency of his drive to rebuild the United States’ creaky infrastructure.
Visibly moved, Biden gazed across a ravine over the buckled sections of the half-century-old Fern Hollow Bridge, flanked by Pennsylvania and local officials and emergency workers as he surveyed the damage.
“The idea that we have been so far behind on infrastructure, for so many years — it’s just mind boggling,” the president told them.
One emergency worker described the scene after the collapse as loud as a jet engine. Biden praised the work of rescuers, noting a natural gas leak that was not stopped until some 30 minutes after first responders arrived at the scene.
Rescuers rappelled at least 150 feet (46 meters) into Fern Hollow, and used ropes to help pull people to safety after the snow-covered span over the ravine collapsed around 6 a.m. (1100 GMT), Pittsburgh Fire Chief Darryl Jones said.
“They helped the firefighters that were here initially on scene, also did like a daisy chain, with hands just grabbing people and pulling them up,” Jones said.
Ten people suffered minor injuries, including four who were taken to the hospital, city officials said. Jones added that crews would search under the bridge for any victims.
The incident was a high-profile example of the need to rebuild the nation’s aging bridges, highways and other infrastructure with money from a $1 trillion spending bill that was a signature achievement of Biden’s first year in office.
Images of the collapse showed the four-lane span buckled into three large sections, with several vehicles piled in the rubble of the collapsed roadway at the bottom of the ravine. The tail end of a long, red city bus appeared trapped by the rubble.
The massive gas leak caused by the collapse forced the evacuation of several families from their homes before being brought under control, Jones said.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team to the site.
Pennsylvania has 3,198 bridges rated https://www.reuters.com/world/us/collapsed-pittsburgh-bridge-is-one-44000-poor-condition-us-2022-01-28/#:~:text=Like%20nearly%2044%2C000%20other%20spans,of%20Transportation’s%202021%20national%20inventory as being in poor condition, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The collapse came just two weeks after Pennsylvania got $327 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation for bridge repair as part of the Biden administration’s new infrastructure law. Pennsylvania’s share of the bridge-repair money is the third largest state allocation, behind only California and New York.
Biden said he was astonished to learn Pittsburgh had more bridges than any city in the world. “And we’re going to fix them all,” he said before leaving the site.
Biden, whose approval ratings have fallen in recent months amid a surge in the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation, got a boost on Thursday when the Commerce Department reported the U.S. economy grew the fastest https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-economy-regained-speed-q4-2021-growth-best-since-1984-2022-01-27 in nearly four decades in 2021.
In Pittsburgh, the president will tour Mill 19, a former steel mill building now serving as a research and development hub, before hailing the U.S. economy’s strong recovery from the pandemic, the White House said.
“The president will talk about the remarkable economic progress we’ve made over his first year in office – including the fastest single year of job growth in American history, the biggest unemployment drop on record and, as we learned on Thursday, the fastest economic growth in 2021 in almost four decades,” a White House official said.
The Democratic president was returning to the site of his first campaign event in 2019. He is expected to tout the creation of 367,000 manufacturing jobs since he took office a year ago, and highlight the $1 trillion infrastructure bill https://www.reuters.com/world/us/biden-needing-boost-sign-1-trillion-infrastructure-bill-2021-11-15 — which was a rare bipartisan victory in a deeply divided Congress.
The president also plans to talk about his push to rebuild American competitiveness and beat China in a race to dominate the global economy, the official said.
General Motors Co has said it would invest $7 billion https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/gms-7-billion-investment-intensifies-ev-battle-with-ford-tesla-2022-01-25 in Michigan to expand electric vehicle production and Intel Corp has said it would invest $100 billion https://www.reuters.com/technology/intel-plans-new-chip-manufacturing-site-ohio-report-2022-01-21 to build a chip-making complex in Ohio.
Mill 19 is home to Carnegie Mellon University’s Manufacturing Futures Institute, and hosts a robotics laboratory and a technology training site.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, Katharine Jackson, Steve Holland, Doina Chiacu, Andy Sullivan; Editing by Howard Goller and Jonathan Oatis)