Weight-limit violators reported on Liberty Bridge; $10K penalty if caught
Multiple vehicles weighing more than the Liberty Bridge’s new, reduced weight limit have crossed the span, and reports of the violations had officials pledging to step up enforcement Tuesday.
The reports of violators came only one day after the bridge reopened following a 24-day shutdown that started when a construction fire closed — and nearly collapsed — the Monongahela River crossing. Officials dropped the weight limit to 9 tons from 30 tons as a precaution while scheduled repairs on the span continue.
Elsa Strotmeyer was delighted to use the bridge once again when she went home from work Monday. The alternate route between her Mt. Lebanon home and the University of Pittsburgh’s campus in Oakland that she used during the bridge shutdown added 60 minutes to her round-trip commute. Her joy became tinged with worry Tuesday morning as she crossed the bridge near a moving company truck she feared exceeded the 9-ton limit.
“I do not feel as safe as PennDOT is telling me to feel,” said Strotmeyer, an associate professor of epidemiology. “But I really need (the bridge); that’s the thing. I’m extremely busy. With two kids at home trying to get everything in with their start of school, and the start of Pitt, I can’t be spending an extra five hours in the car each week.”
About 55,000 motorists cross the bridge each day. The new weight limit prohibits about 4 percent of that average daily traffic load — 2,200 vehicles — from using the span, PennDOT officials said.
After receiving several reports about prohibited vehicles crossing the bridge Tuesday morning, PennDOT officials posted additional weight limit signs and worked with state police to increase enforcement on the roads leading to the 88-year-old bridge, PennDOT District 11 Executive Dan Cessna said.
Restrictions are being enforced through police checkpoints and patrols near both ends of the bridge, PennDOT officials said. Northbound and southbound detours are posted for heavy vehicles. City police are assisting state troopers.
Penalties for exceeding the bridge’s posted weight limit can surpass $10,000.
A state police spokesman, Cpl. Adam Reed, did not know Tuesday afternoon whether troopers had issued any citations for weight restriction violations, but he said troopers were using a mobile vehicle scale to weigh possible violators.
The weight restriction is in place to prevent heavy vehicles from damaging the bridge while crews work on a permanent repair that will allow PennDOT to restore the crossing’s pre-fire, 30-ton weight restriction.
Cessna said PennDOT considered keeping the bridge closed until then but decided the vital link between the south suburbs and Downtown could safely reopen Monday.
“There are many, many bridges that are used safely with weight restrictions in Pennsylvania, and Liberty Bridge is no exception,” he said.
Michael Walton is a Tribune-Review staff writer. He can be reached at 412-380-5627 or email@example.com.