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PennDOT: Liberty Bridge Reopening Could Be Delayed For 'Weeks'

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A total of 55,000 vehicles depend on the Liberty Bridge each day, but those vehicles will be delayed yet again.

The bridge is not re-opening to traffic like it was supposed to on Monday. This time, PennDOT isn't announcing a date on when the bridge will open back up to traffic and says the bridge could remain closed for several more weeks.

A delay in re-opening the Liberty Bridge yet again doesn't mean workers will get a break. They've been working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to get the project done. And those round-the-clock shifts will continue until the work is done.

"Safety is paramount," PennDOT District 11 Executive Dan Cessna said.

Paramount not only to drivers, but workers as well.

"There's people that have actually got to do this repair, the actual workers. There's going to be engineers up on the pier watching this operation go on. We don't want them getting hurt or killed as a result of doing this work. We have to be as safe as we can," PennDOT District Bridge Engineer Lou Ruzzi said.

KDKA's Amy Wadas Reports:

Friday marks two weeks since a worker accidentally lit some of the tarps on the bridge on fire during its rehab project. PennDOT says additional safety measures that are being taken will require crews more time to finish the work that's needed.

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"We determined that we are going to add an additional external bracing system that was suggested to us by one of our experts. That creates some redundancy as we begin this process to jack," Cessna said.

Two braces will be installed on either side of the damaged portion of the 30-foot truss chord, then they'll heat it back to its original length.

"We're trying to save as much of the damaged piece as we can, and that, we feel, is safest way to go. But if doesn't work out, then we have an alternate method we're preparing for, so that's just as safe," Ruzzi said.

KDKA's Brenda Waters Reports:

PennDOT is working to redistribute two million pounds of force and physically move the bridge about one to two inches.

"Please know that these repairs are very complicated and require diligent and thorough analysis," Cessna said. "In the end, the repair will allow us to restore the bridge and have it in a completely safe fashion."

A team of engineers from 16 different organizations are working on the repair plans. The rehab project would have cost PennDOT $80 million before the fire, but because of this delay, contractor Joseph B. Fay won't be getting all that back.

This is called liquidated damages that PennDOT will collect by reducing payments to the contractor. Plus, they'll be paying out of pocket to bring in experts from across the country.

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