When Infrastructure Fails: The Case of the Deadly FIU Bridge Collapse
What was primarily designed to improve pedestrian and commuter safety between the Florida International University in Miami and the city of Sweetwater turned out to be the principal reason for the loss of lives in this part of Miami-Dade County and left hundreds of questions unanswered in its wake of the tragic FIU bridge collapse.
#FIUalert: The pedestrian bridge across Southwest Eighth Street has collapsed, please avoid the area.
— FIU (@FIU) March 15, 2018
FIU Bridge Collapse: A Safe Way To Cross The Road That Turned Deadly
On March 15, 2018, the newly-installed section of the pedestrian bridge connecting the University Park of FIU and Sweetwater City failed, crushing several occupied vehicles underneath, and leaving 6 dead and 9 seriously injured.
The pedestrian bridge was primarily intended to convey pedestrians, especially students, from the Florida International University to the numerous student housings in Sweetwater, over a major roadway and a water canal running parallel to the thoroughfare.
More importantly, the bridge was designed to improve pedestrian safety as the section between FIU and Sweetwater has been clearly identified as a major safety hazard. In August of 2017, an FIU student was killed crossing the busy intersection, prompting officials of FIU to seriously consider building a safe bridge.
— Alto Oosterloo (@aeoost) March 23, 2018
Accelerated Bridge Construction methods were employed in the construction of the $14.2-millon, 289-foot-long, 32-foot-wide, and 109-foot-tall pedestrian bridge. A section of the bridge was to be turned into a gathering space and a study area for FIU students.
Five days prior to the collapse, the contractors of the project – Munilla Construction Management and FIGG Bridge Group – just finished installing the 950-ton, 174-foot section of the bridge. The installation of this section was done in record time of just a few hours and with very minimal traffic disruptions.
Two days before the collapse, the lead engineer of the project discovered cracks at one end of the newly-installed span. The message acknowledged the need for some repairs but downplayed the impact of the cracks on safety. This was communicated to the voicemail of an employee of the Florida Department of Transportation. The message was not heard until March 16.
On the morning of March 15, workers performed a stress test on the platform, tightened loosened cables, and applied post-tensioning force on the north end of the span.
At around 1:47 PM, the bridge’s north end sagged deeply before fracturing and folding. The entire span immediately dropped onto the roadway underneath it, crushing the vehicles that were moving under the span.
Here are the most Frequently Asked Questions from the FIU website: FAQ
Questions in the Air
The FIU bridge collapse left a lot of questions. Many are speculating about negligence on the part of the contractors as well as serious oversight on the part of the FIU for opting to use innovative yet risky bridge installation methods over heavily-traveled roadways. Some of the most intriguing questions that people are asking about the incident include the following.
- Why was the thoroughfare not closed on the day the workers of the project were conducting stress tests on the bridge? Local officials are also demanding answers as to why the road was not closed to traffic when work was being done on the bridge.
- Was the installation of the bridge span done rather too quickly? The ABC bridge-building method boasts of quick bridge installations. But how quick is ‘quick’?
- Why were there no support beams at the time of stress-testing? Since the project is still pretty much incomplete, experts say temporary support beams are a must.
- Is Munilla Construction Management’s political influence a major factor in the awarding of the contract? It is no secret that MCM is a major political contributor in South Florida.
- Was the collapse attributable to a construction or an engineering error? People are saying that the ABC method is an unproven method of bridge-building. But there are also some who are questioning the competency of the contractors in applying the ABC method.
- Was there proper vetting of the engineering and construction companies? Reports show that MCM has been accused of injuring an employee of the TSA at the Fort-Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The case was filed with the Miami-Dade Civil Court on March 5.
— Miami Herald (@MiamiHerald) March 30, 2018
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Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Lawsuits Follow
As of this writing, a bicyclist who was seriously injured in the FIU bridge collapse has already been reported to have filed for a personal injury lawsuit. It is believed that other victims of the incident will be following suit after they tend to their family’s needs.
Individuals who become victims of such tragic accidents like the FIU bridge collapse can find justice by employing the services of a highly-qualified personal injury attorney. Both personal injury and wrongful death can be filed on behalf of those who are injured in the accident and the families of those who lost their lives in the accident, respectively.