New year, new bridges to build in Pittsburgh

Emma Polen | News Editor | This sign was up a week after the Fern Hollow bridge collapse. Now, Frick Park trails surrounding the Fern Hollow bridge are fully open, as is foot traffic on the bridge. Vehicle traffic is limited until construction is finished.

Emma Polen | News Editor

Jan. 05, 2023

The Fern Hollow bridge reopened just in time for those hoping to meet their new year’s exercise resolutions.

On Dec. 22, the Fern Hollow bridge officially reopened to Pittsburgh vehicle and on foot traffic.

The Fern Hollow bridge is an essential overpass connecting the traffic-heavy Forbes Avenue over Frick Park.

The bridge collapsed Jan. 28, 2022, uprooting the daily commute route for many city workers and for all who utilized the trails on and below the bridge.

Don Maue, director of the Center for Innovative Technology at Duquesne, uses the Fern Hollow bridge to commute to work and to stay active.

Maue is a devoted runner in Frick Park, where he has been taking the trails for 12 years.

“Frick trails are the most desirable in the city,” he said.

Before the bridge collapse, Maue said he was running through Frick Park over the bridge everyday.

The Fern Hollow bridge also takes runners to the entrance of two major trails, the South and North Clayton trail.

The North Clayton trail even leads to the Frick Environmental Center.

Now that the bridge is reopened, the South Clayton trail is part of Maue’s recommended running route through Frick Park.

Maue’s running group, Trail Runners of Frick Park, assembled the afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 22, for a celebratory run across the newly opened Fern Hollow bridge.

He called it a “bitter run” in the pre-Christmas cold weather, but he said he was proud to make it to the bridge on the first day of the bridge’s reopening.

For those who travel the bridge often, some changes are in store for both vehicle and on-foot traffic.

According to a news release from the office of Gov. Tom Wolf, the opening of the bridge required first finishing “bridge barrier installation, pedestrian railing and line painting.”

Vehicle access to the bridge is limited to “a single lane of bi-directional traffic while work continues into early 2023,” the release said.

The one-lane traffic in each direction is for “ensuring lighting and rails” construction is completed, said Maria Montaño from the office of the City of Pittsburgh.

The bridge will be “fully reopened sometime in the spring,” she said.

Maue noticed that at the bridge’s reopening late December, his running route had changed across the Fern Hollow Bridge.

Before the collapse, the bridge had a sidewalk on either side of the bridge. Now, a walking and bike trail are marked only on the left side facing South Braddock Ave.

While the sidewalk space might be equivalent to what was originally available to foot traffic before the bridge’s collapse, Maue is concerned that the one-sided trail might affect the city’s ability to keep the trail free from snow and ice during the winter months.

“The last bridge used to ice up so bad on the walkway,” he said. To combat this while running, he would run on the opposite side of the street or directly on the street.

Now, that alternative sidewalk is gone. However, so far, “someone had been cleaning off the ice and snow off the walkway,” he said.

For those hoping to try out the Fern Hollow bridge running path for themselves, Maue recommends running during the day, taking the Tranquil Trail to pass directly underneath the new bridge and being aware of Frick Park’s “notorious” icy trails.