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Report: Grant Not Tied to FIU Bridge Collapse

Friday, November 2, 2018

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A recent audit, conducted by the U.S. Transportation Department inspector general’s office, related to the bridge collapse at Florida International University in March, indicates that there was no evidence that the Obama administration’s 2013 grant was a factor in the accident.

Bridge Collapse Background

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.

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.

National Transportation Safety Board

A recent audit, conducted by the U.S. Transportation Department inspector general’s office, related to the bridge collapse at Florida International University in March, indicates that there was no evidence that the Obama administration’s 2013 grant was a factor in the accident.

In early May, the Miami Herald sued after two months of attempts to access documents related to the collapse, and in early June, the 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 FDOT argued that their pertinence to the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation means they could not be released publicly.

In August, Leon County state court Judge Kevin Carroll ruled that FDOT must release the records associated with the tragedy. A federal judge quickly stepped in and blocked the release of the documents. In September, a preliminary report from the NSTB indicated that cracks found in the bridge a few days before it collapsed were much more extensive than originally thought. Also in September, it came to light that 26 threaded steel rods—the kind being tightened on the bridge at the time of the collapse—were melted down after being removed from the site.

Other Documents, Inspector General Audit

According to Reuters, the inspector general report did not find anything that connected the $11.4 million grant to the collapse, but there were reportedly documentation shortfalls during the review and selection process when the project was chosen.

“Specifically, [the Office of the Secretary of Transportation's] documentation of its decisions did not address all the factors included in the guidelines,” the DOT OIG writes in its report.

“In addition, OST did not document its justification for changing the FIU project’s technical evaluation rating from recommended to highly recommended. Finally, while OST guidelines permit partial funding if the funded components maintain independent utility, OST made changes and reduced funding for the FIU project but did not document how it determined the completed project would be ready for its intended use.”

Moving forward, the audit’s second phase will address project oversight after the grant had been issued. Derek Kan, the Transportation Department under-secretary for policy, corroborated in a letter attached to the report that there was no evidence to suggest that the grant was connected to the accident. He added that the department had improved evaluations of similar grant awards.

   

Tagged categories: Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC); Auditing; Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management

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