No deaths yet to report, but at least three people have been taken to the hospital after a bridge collapse in Pittsburgh this morning. Police have warned of a natural-gas leak from the damage and warn people to avoid the area. CBS affiliate KDKA in Pittsburgh reports that surrounding homes and businesses have been evacuated and gas service turned off in the area:
Ten people suffered minor injuries after a bridge collapsed in Point Breeze early Friday morning.
Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Chief Darryl Jones told reporters just after 8:30 a.m. that 10 people were injured, three of whom were taken to hospitals. None of the injuries was life-threatening, Jones said.
According to Pittsburgh Public Safety, crews were called to the scene in the area of Forbes and Braddock before 7 a.m. Friday.
Several cars as well as a Port Authority bus were involved in the collapse. The three people who were taken to hospitals all were on the bus at the time of the collapse, Jones said.
“It sounded like a huge snow plow … pushing along the surface with no snow,” neighbor Wendy Stroh said. “I didn’t know what it was … It was very frightening.”
If no fatalities result from this collapse, it might qualify as a minor miracle, especially with the gas leak as an additional risk. That risk won’t end with the interruption of service either, but might instead multiply. The city will have no choice but to cut off the gas while they repair the line(s), but it’s January in Pittsburgh. Without heaters, homes in the area will become uninhabitable, and people could die of hypothermia if they don’t evacuate or find another heat source. Plus, the lack of heating in the homes will result in a plethora of burst pipes if the gas is out for any length of time. There’s also a risk that people could create fires when trying to re-light pilot lights in heaters and stoves. It’s a huge headache at best for the gas and water utilities, not to mention the residents.
It might be a problem or a blessing for Joe Biden, however, who had already planned to make a campaign swing of sorts in Pittsburgh today. Biden wanted to tout his win on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which the collapse may highlight:
The collapse comes the same day that Biden is visiting Pittsburgh to discuss infrastructure. As part of his trip, the president will visit the research and development hub of Mill 19, which was part of the infrastructure deal passed by Congress last year.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday.
Don’t expect Biden to refrain from comment, but he might not be alone. Senate Republicans, including Mitch McConnell and retiring Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania, pushed the infrastructure bill too. If no one’s died in the collapse, expect lots and lots of claims for credit on foreseeing the need for infusing money into “America’s crumbling infrastructure.”
President Joe Biden will appear in Pittsburgh on Friday as an opening step in a broader campaign to promote the White House’s achievements in key states before the midterm elections.
But two of the three leading Democrats on Pennsylvania’s statewide ballot this spring who were invited to appear with Biden will not attend, their campaigns confirmed on the eve of the president’s visit.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a leading Senate candidate, and state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the likely Democratic nominee in the race for governor, will be absent because of scheduling conflicts, according to their spokespeople. Another top Senate candidate, Rep. Conor Lamb, a longtime Biden supporter based in Pittsburgh, will attend, his office confirmed. All three had been invited to participate in a photo line with the president.
The high-profile absences come as Democrats in other states have begun taking modest steps to distance themselves from the first-term president, whose approval ratings have fallen sharply in recent months.
Want to bet that their schedules suddenly open up today to be on scene with Biden?
Update: Biden still plans on coming, according to a fresh statement from the White House:
The White House told POLITICO in a statement that Biden still plans to travel to Pittsburgh on Friday despite the bridge collapse. He is scheduled to depart Joint Base Andrews for Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, at 11:30 a.m. and return to the White House at 4:20 p.m.
While in Pittsburgh, Biden is scheduled to visit Carnegie Mellon University at Mill 19 and deliver remarks on “strengthening the nation’s supply chains, revitalizing American manufacturing, creating good-paying, union jobs, and building a better America, including through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” according to the White House.
If there are no fatalities and the presidential visit won’t impact rescue and recovery efforts, there’s no reason to cancel. And given what Biden wanted to tout, he has every reason to proceed.