The Pittsburgh Art Commission has raised concerns that the process to replace the collapsed Fern Hollow Bridge may not include enough public comment or design consideration for the new bridge.
Because the work is being done under an emergency declaration, officials can bypass the Art Commission and other elements of the public process, said Art Commission Chairman Andrew Moss.
In a letter to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, the Arts Commission acknowledged that “time is running out” to replace the bridge, but called on officials to “briefly halt” the process of design to allow further study of the design of the bridge.
Commissioners said the span will be located in the city’s historic Frick Park and should fit in with the park’s aesthetic, while living up to the reputation of many other “beautiful bridges” in “The City of bridges”.
“Although this bridge must be replaced quickly, we must not act in such haste that we create something we will regret for the next century,” the commissioners wrote.
“The new bridge should enhance the beauty and experience of anyone crossing it or under it on the forest trails through Frick Park,” the commissioners added. “Let’s not allow this bridge across a historic park to be designed as if it were an ordinary road bridge.”
• Emergency contract to allow start of design work on replacement of Fern Hollow Bridge
PennDOT oversees the design and construction of the bridge, although the city takes control of the bridge and its maintenance once construction is complete. Wolf’s administration authorized an emergency contract with New Kensington-based Swank Construction Company and HDR Inc., an engineering firm headquartered in Omaha, Neb.
Moss said the Art Commission “is not aware of any public process that has been part of this major civic infrastructure project.”
PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said the agency is working with the Pittsburgh Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Works, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, and Pittsburgh History and Landmarks. Foundation. He did not mention any partnership with the Arts Commission.
“Due to the urgent nature of the project, the public participation process is somewhat compressed,” Cowan said, although the transit agency will roll out a dedicated website for the bridge replacement project next week.
The website will include a public comment section, Cowan said.
Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O’Connor said he would like to hold community meetings once more details on the bridge design become available.
Maria Montaño, spokeswoman for Gainey, said city officials will take into account that the bridge is in a historic park and will hear feedback from the Art Commission.
“Obviously our main priority for this project is to restore access to this important artery in a safe and efficient manner,” Montaño said. “This is an emergency. As part of the emergency declaration and in conjunction with PennDOT, this means that some of the normal and traditional things done under the purview of the Art Commission – like the review of the design of the bridge – are ignored, but we want to recognize the expertise of the members of the commission.
Since the park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, she said city officials are dedicated to maintaining a “similar aesthetic” with the bridge.
“We want to make sure this bridge feels like part of this park,” she said. “We realize this is going to be an important part of our city for a while. There is a lot of work to be done to make sure this bridge fits in with Frick Park and our community.
The Fern Hollow Bridge that collapsed in January served as the main thoroughfare between Squirrel Hill and Regent Square, Wilkinsburg, Swissvale and Parkway East, and it was used by nearly 15,000 vehicles a day.
Less than a week after its collapse, officials said design work for a new span would begin immediately. The design and construction of the new bridge will be funded with $25.3 million from the federal infrastructure bill.