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Pittsburgh bridge collapses before Biden visits to tout infrastructure needs

Ten people sustained injuries, all of them minor, when the snow-covered span collapsed into a wooded gully at about 6 a.m., according to authorities, who said a massive gas leak was reported in the area at the time. The leak was brought under control, they said.

Bridge collapse in Pittsburgh
Vehicles sit on a collapsed bridge Friday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in this image obtained from social media.
Greg Barnhisel / Reuters
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WASHINGTON - A bridge in Pittsburgh collapsed on Friday hours before President Joe Biden was due to arrive in the former steel city to highlight his efforts to strengthen the country's infrastructure.

Ten people sustained injuries, all of them minor, when the snow-covered span collapsed into a wooded gully at about 6 a.m., according to authorities, who said a massive gas leak was reported in the area at the time. The leak was brought under control, they said.

"It sounded like a snow plow," a witness told KDKA, calling the timing on the day of Biden's visit "an amazing coincidence."

Biden was told of the bridge collapse and will proceed with his trip as planned, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. The White House is in touch with state and local officials about the collapse, she added.

The collapse highlights Biden's call for massive investment in the nation's aging bridges, highways and other infrastructure, which the president sees as a vital step in assuring the economy's long-term health along with addressing supply chain shortage and revitalizing manufacturing.

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The collapsed bridge, near Pittsburgh's Frick Park, was inspected last September, Mayor Ed Gainey told reporters.

A photo posted on social media by KDKA television showed several vehicles piled in the rubble of the collapsed roadway at the bottom of a wooded gully. At least one vehicle, which appeared to be a bus, was dangling at the edge of part of the bridge. A strong smell of natural gas permeated the area, Pittsburgh Public Safety said in a Twitter message.

Pennsylvania has 3,198 bridges rated as being in "poor" condition, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Economic boost

Biden, whose approval ratings have fallen in recent months amid a surge in the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation, got a boost on Thursday when the Commerce Department reported the U.S. economy grew the fastest in nearly four decades in 2021.

In Pittsburgh, the Democratic president will tour Mill 19, a former steel mill building now serving as a research and development hub, before hailing the U.S. economy's strong recovery from the pandemic, the White House said.

"The president will talk about the remarkable economic progress we’ve made over his first year in office - including the fastest single year of job growth in American history, the biggest unemployment drop on record and, as we learned on Thursday, the fastest economic growth in 2021 in almost four decades," a White House official said.

Biden, returning to the site of his first campaign event in 2019, will tout the creation of 367,000 manufacturing jobs since he took office one year ago, and passage of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill - a rare bipartisan victory in a deeply divided U.S. Congress.

The president also plans to talk about his push to rebuild American competitiveness and beat China in a race to dominate the global economy, the official said.

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In recent days, General Motors said it would invest $7 billion in Michigan to expand electric vehicle production and Intel said it would invest $100 billion to build a chip-maker in Ohio.

Mill 19 is home to Carnegie Mellon University's Manufacturing Futures Institute, and hosts a robotics laboratory and a technology training site.

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