Some Experts Question Florida Bridge Construction

March 16, 2018 Federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are searching for the cause of Thursday’s pedestrian bridge collapse in Miami, Florida that killed at least six people.

The brand new Florida International University bridge was designed to withstand the strength of a Category 5 hurricane and was supposed to last for more than 100 years.

The bridge collapse prompted a closer examination of the structure’s design and the safety of its construction. NTSB chairman, Robert L. Sumwalt said Friday that investigators would examine why there was not a central support beam to hold up the bridge.

Some civil engineering experts have raised questions about how FIU and its contractors approached the project. Virtually all newly constructed bridges are built with prefabricated beams and girders. Professor Amjad Aref, a researcher at the University at Buffalo’s department of civil, structural and environmental engineering said in Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) projects like the FIU span, the loss of the extra support from the main tower during construction is a risk. Some bridge engineers questioned the decision to install the span’s main concrete segment over a busy road before building its main support tower was puzzling. Normally, the tower is constructed first and the walkway or roadway is anchored to it with cables.

The Florida International University bridge project is a collaboration between MCM Construction, a Miami-based contractor, and Figg Bridge Design, based in Tallahassee. FIGG said in a statement on Thursday that it’s stunned by the collapse.

The Associated Press reports that both companies have been involved in construction accidents before. FIGG was fined in 2012 after a section of a bridge it was building in Virginia fell and injured several workers. In a lawsuit filed earlier this month, MCM was accused of substandard by a worker injured when a makeshift bridge the company built at the Fort Lauderdale airport collapsed
under his weight.

Proponents of the rapid building technique say the method has been used safely in other projects for years, and in general keeps the public safer. They say the tragedy in Florida should not result in reduced use.

FIGG Bridge Group is the same company that designed the replacement bridge following the 2007 collapse of th Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis that killed 13 people and injured 145. Lessons learned from the Minneapolis bridge collapse included redundancy in bridge inspections and internal communications.

SEE ALSO: Several People Dead After Florida University Bridge Collapse

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