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Cracks Threaten Collapse of FL Bridge

Friday, June 19, 2020

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During a routine biannual inspection on Tuesday (June 16), large cracks and falling concrete were discovered on the southernmost span of the southbound Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart, Florida.

Following the inspection, the United States Coast Guard ruled that the structure is “at risk of an imminent collapse,” and the Florida Department of Transportation District Four office closed the structure to road traffic, as well as commercial boating traffic on the St. Lucie River below, until a thorough safety inspection is completed.

Roosevelt Bridge History

According to TC Palm, in 1917 the Palm Beach County Commission awarded an $80,000 bid for the construction of a 14-foot-wide bridge, with a 120-foot swing span. However, the onset of World War I added an additional $10,000 to the cost of steel. A year later, the bridge opened at the end of January, and went by the Henry Flagler Bridge.

A little over a decade later, a new bridge was ordered at the cost of $500,000 and was named for former President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This bascule structure—a kind of drawbridge—was completed in 1934. Thirty years later, a second span was ordered for the bridge with a price tag of $4 million.

Due to continuous failures and monumental traffic jams, both on the road and boats traveling on the river below, officials endured 15 years of public hearings and intense lobbying in both Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., for the bridge's official replacement.

While the decision landed on the construction of two new spans—with some help from architect Andres Duany—reports indicate that many residents actually had preferred a tunnel under the river.

After three years of construction, in 1997, the new Roosevelt Bridge was dedicated on Nov. 1. The twin segmental box girder bridge stands 65 feet above the river, measures 4,566 feet from shore to shore, with both spans measuring 62 feet wide, each carrying three lanes of traffic.

Together, the two spans sit on 74 piers and support 1,112 concrete segments, each weighing 80 tons. Construction efforts for the bridge project reportedly used more than 58,000 cubic yards of concrete, 1,015 miles of steel reinforcing bar or rebar, 650 miles of steel cable and 8,500 feet of fiberglass pipe to drain 19,046 gallons per minute off the bridge.

TC Palm reports that the bridge replacement project cost $83.7 million, with federal agencies covering 80% and the remaining 20% by state and local entities. Italian firm Recchie America, Inc., now known as America-Condotte, was the prime contractor on the bridge replacement project.

Bridge designers involved for the project included: LoBuono; Armstrong and Associates (Tallahassee); Reynolds, Smith & Hills (Jacksonville, Florida); and Finley McNary Engineers (Tallahassee).

FIGG Engineering was also a part of the construction-engineering inspection team at the time, according to spokesperson Cheryl Stopnick, Senior Vice President for Public Relations at Sachs Media Group, who added that the team was not involved in any way with the bridge design.

(It should be noted that FIGG Construction Services, Inc. and FIGG Bridge Engineers Inc. are two separate companies under the FIGG brand.)

What’s Happening Now

According to WPTV, while construction crews were conducting unrelated road work, they noticed damage and called police authorities. While city officials have tried to claim that the damages were more of a facade issue than the infrastructure itself, FDOT officials and other national and federal partners disagree.

"There is no evidence to suggest that the bridge will collapse imminently,” said Stuart Mayor Mike Meier. “That message was delivered by the Coast Guard early this morning in what we believe was a measure to drive the point home that it was not safe to drive under the bridge. There is no dire immediate risk of collapse."

However, during their inspection, FDOT engineers found that rust in the steel cables had been exposed when the concrete fell and further revealed an area of concern on the northbound side of the bridge as well.

As a result of the discovery, officials have shutdown the southbound lanes indefinitely, while the northbound lanes have been split to accommodate both directions for travelers. The Coast Guard has also facilitated a safety zone to stop commercial maritime traffic from passing under the bridge.

While the Department hasn’t officially determined if the damages are enough to insinuate a collapse, further investigations are slated to take place with experts arriving yesterday to run in-depth testing. According to FDOT, the testing will involve further concrete drilling to examine steel tendions and corrosion checks.

Regardless of the continued inspections, no timeline has been released for the reopening of the structure. Tolls between Stuart and Port St. Lucie have also be suspended on the state’s turnpike, as a result of the closure.

Editor's Note: This article was updated at 9:30 a.m., June 23, 2020, to correct the role of FIGG Engineering in regard to the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart, Florida.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Bridges; Corrosion; Department of Transportation (DOT); Health & Safety; Infrastructure; Inspection; NA; North America; Project Management; Safety

Comment from Mario Colica, (6/19/2020, 7:08 AM)

It's another case of rust which is the cause of the weakness of bridges . The corrosion has to be forcasted before the realisation of the steel or concrete bridge. When rust has appeared it is too late . One remedy is the Zinc thermal spray

Comment from Erik Andreassen, (6/20/2020, 7:18 PM)

why don't the expert look at a non destructive option ,such as gamma ray of the suspect areas. I carried out the same inspection of a cooling tower which was the first power station cooling tower ever to be tested by radiography. The result was conclusive. The steel re-bar had corroded to such an extent, the top 25 mtr had to be demolished. It's simple and does not require destructive methods of testing which will further weaken the sections under test.

Comment from Michael Beitzel, (6/23/2020, 3:32 PM)

I for one am getting tired of these everyday disaster declarations. Please let the structural engineering experts weigh in before. Until that happens it is appropriate to err on the side of caution by authorities. But let the experts pass judgement in the long term. I for one would like to see electrical impedance testing of cables encased in concrete to help detect un-seeable corrosive changes

Comment from Scott Youngs, (12/28/2020, 6:55 PM)

"I for one would like to see electrical impedance testing of cables encased in concrete to help detect un-seeable corrosive changes" Well said Michael...

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