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NTSB: Serious Cracking Before FIU Collapse

Thursday, August 16, 2018

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Cracks in Florida International University’s pedestrian bridge, found only a few days before it collapsed, were more extensive than originally indicated, according to new preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The photos show that four large cracks were forming in the section that failed in mid-March; the cracking was more severe than the small cracks that had been seen before the bridge was lifted into place.

Bridge Collapse

While the bridge was funded and overseen by FIU, the Florida Department of Transportation was involved in the planning of the span, which was built over U.S. Route 41 in the Miami suburb of University Park. The bridge collapsed during post-tensioning on March 15, killing five civilians and one employee of subcontractor VSL.

FIU is home to the Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center, a multi-university center promoting ABC techniques. The pedestrian bridge was touted as an example of innovative design and construction meant to limit road closures and inconvenience stemming from the otherwise lengthy bridge construction process.

Munilla Construction Management

Cracks in Florida International University’s pedestrian bridge, found only a few days before it collapsed, were more extensive than originally indicated, according to new preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

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.

In early May, the Miami Herald sued after two months of attempts to access documents related to the collapse, and in early June, Florida Department of Transportation asked a County Circuit Court judge to dismiss the suit. The newspaper said the agency acknowledged that the records fell under the state’s open-records law, but the FDOT argued that their pertinence to the NTSB’s investigation means they could not be released publicly.

NTSB Preliminary Report

While the new preliminary report from the NTSB does not indicate what caused the collapse, the investigation also did not find problems in the concrete and steel bars used in the bridge. According to the Miami Herald, this suggests that the problem had less to do with construction errors, and may more likely have stemmed from problems the overall design. Given the extent of the damage, questions are now being raised about why the road underneath the bridge was not shut down during the post-tensioning process.

“The initial results from these tests and examinations have, thus far, not indicated any notable material issues,” the NTSB writes in the report. Later, the agency also notes that streel structural supports, which were in the concrete brace that was part of the bridge believed to have failed, were installed properly.

As part of the investigation, NTSB investigators interviewed people from employees affiliated with the bridge’s design, construction and inspection, including FIGG and Munilla Construction Management; the majority of the interviews have been completed.


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

Comment from Mark Taylor, (8/16/2018, 8:09 AM)

It's mind-boggling to me why when those cracks were discovered, why the site was not shut down, and why traffic below was not stopped. That falls back on the contractor and FDOT. That amount of cracking is a very big indicator of a problem. Yet, they kept right on working and kept traffic below the span active. That's just downright negligence.

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (8/20/2018, 5:16 PM)

Wow! I'm sorry, but if you have cracks like that forming in a new construction project, there is an issue that needs to be! There is absolutely no reason I can think of for such a massive failure (the cracking shown) so early on in a project unless there is some form of failure (has happened or is happening).

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