Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Editorial: Expediting the Charles Anderson Bridge project: An infrastructure win for the Gainey administration

The fate of the Charles Anderson Bridge in Oakland was shaping up to be another embarrassment for the struggling Gainey administration — but Mr. Gainey’s apparent deal with state and federal agencies to accelerate a full rehabilitation of the span, if it is seen through, may turn out to be a welcome example of effective leadership from Grant Street. The bridge carries the Boulevard of the Allies over Panther Hollow.

PennDOT rebuilt the Fern Hollow Bridge in under a year due to the city’s emergency declaration, which allowed design and construction to proceed in parallel. Because the Charles Anderson has been on the decrepit list for so long, much of the preparatory work is already complete. By moving funding up the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission’s priority list, at least a year may be cut off the construction schedule. This means the city is canceling its remedial repairs and will keep the bridge closed for the duration of the full rehab.

In the morbid discussion of city-owned bridges with inspection results similar to, or even worse than, the collapsed Fern Hollow Bridge, the Charles Anderson Bridge was always near the top of the list. Pittsburghers’ fears were confirmed when the city closed the bridge on an emergency basis on Feb. 1.

Mr. Gainey attempted to dodge responsibility for a postponement of rehab funding for the span. Mayor Bill Peduto’s 2022 capital budget projected $3 million in spending on the Charles Anderson in 2023, but Mr. Gainey’s 2023 capital budget pushed that projection back an entire year. The mayor attributed this to a postponement by the SPC transportation planning agency — but he sits on the executive committee of the commission. A Post-Gazette investigation later revealed that Mr. Gainey has an extremely poor attendance record at SPC meetings.

Mr. Gainey pleaded that Mr. Peduto’s $3 million plans for the bridge were merely a “projection” and not an “allocation,” but this is wordplay: The fact remains that the plans were delayed on his watch.

Securing a deal to expedite the bridge’s reconstruction, however, would reverse this mistake and maybe build some positive momentum for the floundering administration.

There are still unanswered questions about just how expedited the process will be. At the meeting where City Council approved the preliminary funding, Department of Mobility and Infrastructure director Kim Lucas would only commit to “before 2027” for a completion date. Since 2027 was when construction was supposed to happen under the original 2022 SPC plan, with bids going out mid-2025, Pittsburghers who use this vital connection are right to want a more specific commitment.

Further, early statements from the city misstated the nature of its own agreement with state and federal agencies, another sign of amateurism in the mayor’s office.

But let’s dwell on the positive: Mr. Gainey’s office effectively advocated for city infrastructure in the labyrinthine state and federal funding process. It’s a success we need to see the mayor repeat many times in the years to come.

Read the full article at post-gazette.com.