Instead of a handful, Norfolk Southern is picking just one. The Class 1 railroad company released plans on replacing the Merchant Bridge in Pittsburgh, but opponents want other bridges along the same line to be included, too.
The 115-year-old Merchant Bridge carries 36 trains a day, but when construction is complete the new structure will have the capacity to deal with 70 daily. Norfolk Southern wants to lower the road that crosses under the existing bridge 26 in., which would improve the clearance between the bridge and roadway to 11 ft 3 in. A wider sidewalk, two bicycle lanes, new lighting and pointing of the sandstone support wall also are part of the project.
In 2018, an inspection on the Merchant Bridge found significant steel corrosion in cross-girder columns and the riveted through structure.
Other rail bridges along the Fort Wayne line also need to be dealt with, and are part of Norfolk Southern’s Pittsburgh Vertical Clearance Project. Plans call for those bridges to be lifted to accommodate double-stacked rail cars. However, some groups are against the idea because it would create and increase in rail traffic, which in turn would increase pollution and potential hazards. Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh also believes the Merchant Bridge should be grouped with the others because it is on the same line and carries the same impact.
The video will allow the public to make comments on the Merchant Bridge project, which has received a $20 million grant from the Pittsburgh Department of Transportation. Construction is expected to begin next spring.