United States President Joe Biden was headed to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Friday to promote the benefits of his infrastructure package scheduled to be held near the site of an early-morning bridge collapse that underscored his frequent calls to do more for the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges.
Ten people sustained injuries, all of them minor, when the snow-covered span collapsed into a wooded gully at about 6:00am, according to authorities, who said a large gas leak was reported in the area at the time. The leak was brought under control.
“It sounded like a snowplough,” a witness told local media, calling the timing on the day of Biden’s visit “an amazing coincidence”.
Biden was told of the bridge collapse and he 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 ageing 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 revitalising manufacturing.
“The president is grateful to the first responders who rushed to assist the drivers who were on the bridge at the time,” the White House said in a statement.
The collapsed bridge, near Pittsburgh’s Frick Park, was inspected last September, the city’s fire chief told reporters.
Pennsylvania has 3,198 bridges rated as being in “poor” condition, according to the US Department of Transportation.
In Pittsburgh, the Democratic president will tour Mill 19, a former steel factory building now serving as a research and development hub, before hailing the US economy’s strong recovery from the pandemic, the White House said.
The visit comes ahead of key midterm congressional elections. The battle to replace Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who is not seeking re-election, is expected to be one of the most competitive Senate races this year.