Pittsburgh bridge collapses before Biden visits to tout infrastructure spend

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WASHINGTON, Jan 28 (Reuters) – A Pittsburgh bridge collapsed on Friday hours before U.S. President Joe Biden was due to arrive in the former steel city to highlight his efforts to strengthen infrastructure, supply chains and revitalize U.S. manufacturing.

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

Hours before Biden’s visit, authorities reported that a snow-covered bridge had collapsed near Pittsburgh’s Frick Park.

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.

No fatalities or life-threatening injuries were reported.

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

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.

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.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the U.S. economy grew 5.7% in 2021, its strongest expansion since 1984 and the first time in 20 years that U.S. economic growth outpaced that of the Chinese economy.

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

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Heather Timmons, Michael Perry and Mark Heinrich)

Photo – US President Joe Biden. EPA-EFE/ED ZURGA

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