Only in Pittsburgh: Liberty Bridge fire T-shirts

To CommonWealth Press, a uniquely Pittsburgh moment is an opportunity to make a funny t-shirt. And the Liberty Bridge fire was no exception.

MJ Slaby

A year from now, a handful of Pittsburghers will pull out a T-shirt about the Liberty Bridge fire from their closets and crack up.

That’s Dan Rugh’s hope anyway.

The bridge caught fire Sept. 2, sparking traffic angst across the city and closing it for 12 days so far (not that we’re counting) with PennDOT currently planning to reopen the bridge Monday at the earliest.

Some frustrated drivers, like this one, took to Twitter to ask Rugh and his staff at CommonWealth Press for a response. Once it was clear that everyone was safe following the bridge fire, the staff already had ideas to meet those requests, he said. 

Known for their Pittsburgh-centric T-shirts, the CommonWealth Press staff spends a lot of time sitting around and thinking of ideas, Rugh said. And sometimes, he said, they strike genius.

Within a day, CommonWealth posted the blue tee — to stand out from black — with yellow text on Instagram.

“It is a reaction to a very Pittsburgh moment,” added Thomas Cipollone, retail manager of the company’s South Side store on Wharton Street, saying a T-shirt was the best way to prove you were stuck in traffic.

And Rugh, a T-shirt designer for more than a decade, said he couldn’t remember his most popular shirt. But he said there were many, like this one, that only locals would understand.

“We want to connect with the people that think like we do, even if that’s like three people,” he said.

If Rugh and Cipollone had to grade the Liberty Bridge shirt?

“A solid B,” Rugh said.

It’s a shirt that turns a frustrating situation into a joke and unites people, he said. “We’re all in this together.”

Even if that’s still in traffic.