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Some Lanes Reopen on Cracked FL Bridge

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

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About 10 days after large cracks and falling concrete were discovered on the southernmost span of the southbound Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart, Florida, state officials have reopened four of the structure’s six lanes.

Following a routine biannual inspection on June 16, the United States Coast Guard ruled that the structure was “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.

In addition to inspecting the Roosevelt Bridge, FDOT also announced late last week a plan to review bridge inspection procedures for the 84 segmental bridges in the state. Reportedly, the 2018 Roosevelt Bridge Report prompted the review.

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).

The Damage

Construction crews were reportedly conducting unrelated road work when they noticed the damage on the bridge and called police authorities.

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 shut down the southbound lanes while the northbound lanes were split to accommodate both directions for travelers. The Coast Guard also facilitated a safety zone to stop commercial maritime traffic from passing under the bridge.

Officials are reportedly testing bridge materials in laboratories in Gainesville, Florida, and have now said that the corrosion in the southbound lanes was not found in the northbound side.

After minor repairs, four lanes were opened to traffic on June 27, with two lanes each reserved for north and southbound travel.

An FDOT update late last week detailed that law enforcement remains at the bridge to enforce a 5-ton weight limit.

In addition, officials confirmed that testing and inspections are continuing and a timeline for the complete reopening has yet to be determined.


On July 2, FDOT released a statement saying that Secretary Kevin J. Thibault called for a review of segmental bridge inspection procedures statewide.

“As part of this on-going review, FDOT is examining inspection findings as well as FDOT laboratory test results and partnering with the Federal Highway Administration, universities and transportation peers nationwide to develop recommendations to be utilized for inspections going forward,” according to the statement. “The review will be completed as quickly as possible and recommendations will be shared as soon as they are available.”

According to TC Palm, FDOT spokesperson Beth Frady declined to say what specifically about the 2018 report prompted officials to take a look at the inspection process, though the publication notes that the 109-page report has been heavily redacted for the media and gave overall “good” ratings to the bridge’s northbound and southbound spans.



Tagged categories: Bridges; Bridges; Corrosion; Government; Health and safety; Inspection; Maintenance + Renovation; NA; North America; Safety

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