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What To Expect As Demolition, Rebuilding Process Begins At Site Of Fern Hollow Bridge Collapse

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Over the weekend, Swank Construction moved its demolition equipment into place to begin work on the collapsed Fern Hollow Bridge.

Initially, the company will be moving pieces of the bridge to assist the NTSB in its investigation, and then the demolition will begin.

Simultaneously, plans for the replacement bridge are underway and already a significant change appears in the works.

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Photo Credit: KDKA Photojournalist Ian Smith

Swank Construction and PennDOT are hoping to have the site cleared within a month, but what will rise in the spot is less clear.

"The bridge engineers are meeting the environmental folks and are trying to move forward as quick as we can," said PennDOT District 11 Executive Cheryl Moon-Sirianni.

Moon-Sirianni says the keystone in the process is steel.

"What's gonna control the schedule of this bridge is the procurement of the beams," Moon-Sirianni said.

Moon-Sirianni says the idea is to get the bridge open quickly, so another K-frame bridge being built like the previous one is unlikely.

"A K-frame structure or any type of fancy arch steel structure we're looking at would take about 18 months just to order the steel. So those are timeframes we don't have," Moon-Sirianni said.

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All of the partners on the project, including the city, state, county, contractors, and engineers are dealing with restrictions.

"We pretty much have to put the bridge back at the width its currently at, because there's a historic feature on the one end, there's like a little stone gate house. That is a historic feature. We don't want to touch that. And then there's obviously homes up on the one hillside that you know, we can't impact them," Moon-Sirianni said.

Moon-Sirianni also says it's fairly certain that the four driving lanes will return.

"But I think they're going to modify the sidewalk, trying to make maybe a shared use path, rather than sidewalks," Moon-Sirianni said.

The pressure is also on in the interest of East End commuters as well as the impact on traffic involving detours from the Squirrel Hill tunnel.

As for when the bridge will open, Moon-Sirianni was asked if next spring was conceivable, and she said that would be a nice goal, but there are too many variables in play to pinpoint a specific time table.

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