Politics

Biden says Pittsburgh bridge collapse shows how poor infrastructure 'can threaten lives'

Key Points
  • President Joe Biden visited the site of a bridge collapse in Pittsburgh on Friday and said the disaster was a vivid example of how weak infrastructure can threaten people's lives.
  • The visit was an unscheduled detour during a trip meant to promote his infrastructure projects.
  • "We're gonna rebuild that bridge, along with thousands of other bridges in Pennsylvania and across the country," said Biden.
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Pittsburgh bridge collapses just hours before Biden to speak on infrastructure there

President Joe Biden made an unscheduled visit to the site of a bridge collapse in Pittsburgh on Friday afternoon, during a trip originally meant to tout his legislative agenda — including the landmark infrastructure law he signed last year.

"We saw today, when a bridge is in disrepair, it literally can threaten lives," Biden said in a speech at Carnegie Mellon University's Mill 19, just a few miles from the collapsed bridge.

The bridge, said Biden, "had been rated in poor condition for the past 10 years."

"There are another 3,300 bridges here in Pennsylvania in just as old, and just as decrepit a condition as that bridge was," he said. "Across the country there are 45,000 bridges in poor condition."

He added: "It's just simply unacceptable."

Pittsburgh Public Safety confirmed the collapse on Twitter before 7 a.m. ET, urging people to avoid the area around Forbes and Braddock avenues near Frick Park.

On Friday afternoon, three people remained hospitalized with nonlife-threatening injuries. In all, 10 people were checked or treated for minor injuries, including first responders, the city said in a news release.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to reporters and first responders as he visits the site of a bridge collapse prior to attending an earlier scheduled event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., January 28, 2022.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

"Your governor and your members of Congress, your mayor have been saying for years, 'we have to do something about this,'" said Biden. "We don't need headlines saying that someone was killed when the next bridge collapses."

In his speech, Biden tied the bridge collapse directly to the failure of previous administrations to pass the infrastructure bill he signed into law.

The package, which passed after years of failed efforts by former President Donald Trump and other presidents to forge a similar agreement, allocates $550 billion in new money for transportation, broadband and utilities projects.

"We're gonna rebuild that bridge, along with thousands of other bridges in Pennsylvania and across the country because it's in our interests, for our own safety's sake and it generates commerce in a way that we can't do now," said Biden.

Emergency vehicles are parked at the edge of a bridge that collapsed, Friday Jan. 28, 2022 in Pittsburgh's East End.
Gene J. Puskar | AP

Biden said the location of today's speech was especially significant to him. A Rust Belt state, Pennsylvania has worked hard to reorient its workforce and its economy to meet the needs of the post-industrial era.

Pittsburgh is at the heart of this statewide transformation, and over the past decade it has drawn a series of tech giants and biomedical companies to open hubs there.

But the state's infrastructure did not keep up with its ambitions. In 2021, Pennsylvania's infrastructure was ranked the seventh-worst in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.

"Nearly three years ago, I began my campaign for president right here in Pittsburgh — the first major stop I made. I said back then I was running to 'Restore the backbone of America," said Biden.

"Now, after my first year, I wanted to come back to Pittsburgh — this is my third time here — in this facility to take stock of what we've accomplished together, and look forward to the extraordinary opportunities that lie ahead for Pittsburgh and America, if we continue to do our job."