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FIU Bridge Contractor Files for Bankruptcy

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

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The contractor responsible for installing the pedestrian bridge at Florida International University roughly a year ago has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to a press release from the company. 

Magnum Construction Management, formerly known as Munilla Construction Management, filed for bankruptcy March 1. The Chapter 11 “plan of reorganization” allows companies to negotiate with creditors while executing reorganization initiatives with plans to resume business operations as normal. The process should take roughly four mouths, an MCM spokesperson told The Miami Herald.

What Happened

The bridge collapsed during post-tensioning on March 15, 2018, 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.

National Transportation Safety Board, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The contractor responsible for installing the pedestrian bridge at Florida International University roughly a year ago has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to a press release from the company. The bridge collapsed March 15, 2018.

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 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, though, 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.

In mid-November, an audit, conducted by the U.S. Transportation Department inspector general’s office indicated that there was no evidence that the Obama administration’s 2013 grant was a factor in the accident.

Bankruptcy Filing

MCM noted in its press release that all claims against the company, including those related to the FIU bridge collapse, will be negotiated during the bankruptcy proceedings. MCM also said that the filing should not be seen as “as an attempt to avoid any responsibility” for the incident. The Herald was unable to obtain court papers from the case. The press release also did not disclose any financial information.

As a company, MCM has a history of working on local government contracts: The company has won more than $69 million in work from Miami-Dade County since 2014. However, MCM has struggled since last year’s incident.

When asked about the company’s financial state, MCM partner Pedro Munilla said: “We’re devastated. [...] We haven’t been able to bid for nine months.”

MCM is currently still operating, and has since gained $18 million in cash to finish existing construction work.

“MCM’s doors are open, and the company continues to conduct business as it navigates this process,” said President Jorge Munilla. “As always, our management team and employees remain focused on doing great work for our valued customers. The reorganization will have minimal impact on operations.”

   

Tagged categories: Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC); Bankruptcy; Bridges; Business matters; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management

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