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How A City With 446 Bridges Deals With Infrastructure09:52

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Pittsburgh has more than 440 bridges in its city – more than Venice, Italy – earning it the nickname the "City of Bridges." For many residents, the bridges represent the city’s historic ties with industrial production, engineering and steel.

But at least 20 bridges are now labeled “structurally deficient” by state and local officials, often due to age and weather damage. The Liberty Bridge, which once carried an estimated 54,000 vehicles a day, is now undergoing a three-year reconstruction estimated to cost almost $90 million.

Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson, reporting from Pittsburgh, explores the history of the bridges and speaks with transportation officials about the Liberty Bridge project and the overall cost of upkeep.

Interview Highlights

Bob Regan, historian and author of Bridges of Pittsburgh

"Oh Lord, I think bridges mean everything [to the identity of the city]. I mean, you just look around to the city or you go to some grocery stores, there are models of bridges. A lot of the businesses have the bridges in their logo. And so I think it's everything. I think Pittsburgh is really identified with them."

Pat Hassett, assistant director of the Bureau of Transportation and Engineering Department of Public Works, City of Pittsburgh

"There are some bridges that have passed their useful life and they don't necessarily serve the demand they used to serve in the past when the rivers were full of the steel mills. But we're reluctant to take them out because the bridges are more than just connections in communities, they're icons. Neighborhoods and people come to relate to these bridges so we are looking at ways of maintaining these bridges. One option we have is to reduce them to pedestrian bridges as opposed to vehicle bridges. We're in the process of making that assessment on some of our bridges."

Jason Zang, structure control engineer for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

"Recent years... brought to light the conditions of many bridges. Pennsylvania has made it a priority to make bridge maintenance and repairing the infrastructure that we have. Instead of building new infrastructure, we really need to maintain what we have and that's really what we've been concentrating on the past few years."

Pittsburgh’s Fort Pitt Bridge, crossing the Monongahela River. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Pittsburgh’s Fort Pitt Bridge, crossing the Monongahela River. (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Bridge. (Jeremy Hobson/Here & Now)
Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Bridge. (Jeremy Hobson/Here & Now)
Bob Regan, author of “Bridges of Pittsburgh.” (Dean Russell/Here & Now)
Bob Regan, author of “Bridges of Pittsburgh.” (Dean Russell/Here & Now)

Guests

  • Bob Regan, historian and author of "Bridges of Pittsburgh."
  • Pat Hassett, assistant director of the Bureau of Transportation and Engineering Department of Public Works, City of Pittsburgh.
  • Jason Zang, structure control engineer for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

This story aired on April 26, 2016.

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