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NTSB Focuses on Crack in FIU Bridge Probe

Friday, May 25, 2018

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As the investigation of the pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University continues, the National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday (May 23) released a preliminary report focused on cracks that formed in the structure before the accident.

The cracks, which formed along the north and south ends of the span, were discovered in the days before the bridge collapse.

Bridge Collapse

On March 15, the pedestrian bridge collapsed across eight lanes of the busy road below, flattening several vehicles.

The 950-ton, 174-foot-long span was assembled alongside the road while support columns were erected in place. On March 10, the span was lifted off the ground with a mechanical transporter, swung into position, then lowered onto the support columns. Sliding it into place took six hours, noted the Miami Herald, and the process—known as Accelerated Bridge Construction—was touted by FIU as an innovative “instant” bridge technique.

National Transportation Safety Board, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As the investigation of the pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University continues, the National Transportation Safety Board recently released a preliminary report that is focusing on cracks that formed in the structure before the accident.

According to CNN, shortly after the span was installed, W. Denney Pate, an engineer with bridge firm FIGG, which was part of the design-construction team, noticed there was an issue—a crack had formed along the north side of the bridge, and repairs were needed.

Most recently, the Herald asked four engineers to examine accidentally released documentation related to the collapse. Many agreed that the cracks signified potentially critical structural issues.

There were also reports that a crane that was at the site at the time of the incident was driven away shortly after. The crane had been in use lifting a piece of equipment used to adjust the span's internal steel supports around the time the bridge came crashing down. Shortly after, the operator stepped out of the crane, untied a strand of police tape that responding officers had tied to the equipment, went back in the rig, started it up and drove away.

Collapse Investigation

Photos released by the NTSB reveal three cracks along the north end of the span, where crews were working on tensioning a structural component around when the collapse occurred. A crew was working on the diagonal beam around that time, according to the Sun Sentinel.

The report indicates that the “NTSB is evaluating the emergence of cracks in the region of diagonal members 2 (south end of the bridge) and 11 (north end of bridge),” with photographic documentation from Feb. 24 showing “cracks in the region of diagonal member 11.”

The preliminary report did not articulate a probable cause of the collapse; the agency is still investigating and testing other bridge components.


Tagged categories: Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC); Bridges; Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board); Program/Project Management

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