First civil suit to be filed in fatal Miami bridge collapse
FOREIGN students return for classes after the deadly bridge collapse. Phil Keating reports from Florida.
The construction of the bridge that collapsed and killed six people in the Miami area was behind schedule and millions over budget, partly as a result of a significant change in the design and the placement of one of the support towers.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request show that the Florida Department of Transportation in October 2016, ordered to the International University of Florida and its contractors on one of the bridge’s main support structures 11 feet north to the edge of a channel, widening of the gap between the junction end supports and in which a number of new structural design.
The span of the signature, the 109-metre-high pylon was built on top of a foot, or base, at the northern end of the service life. In addition to basic support, the design is also aimed at contributing to the aesthetics of the bridge, which itself was touted as an architectural marvel that would span a busy road and a canal and connect the fast-growing university and the nearby community of Sweetwater. In their winning the 2015 proposal, the designers, said the bridge “a spectacular view” for both pedestrian use of the bridge and drivers passing underneath. And she added that the tower could serve as a safety feature, because it is an “eagle-eyed” for additional lighting and security cameras.
Videos of the collapse show that the concrete, prefabricated concrete segment of the bridge began crumbling and on the same side of the range where the tower redevelopment occurred, two days after an engineer on the project reported cracks in the same location. The segment that failed was placed on the top of the pylon of the foot, and the top tower section was installed later.
But it is still unclear whether modification of the design played a role in the failure, e-mails between the school, contractors, officials, with the city of Sweetwater and allow agencies to show a project that ended up behind schedule, which had officials worried that further delays could jeopardize millions in federal Department of Transportation resources.
When the bridge collapsed, the project was already running about $2.6 million more than the $9.4 million initial budget, the cost for the tracking of documents from the February show. Originally scheduled to be completed in July, the finish date had been pushed back to January 2019.
Problems began at the end of 2016, when the Florida Department of Transportation by e-mail, project officials say that they needed to make the bridge a signature of the pylon to allow for future widening of the road, according to the documents. The tower was located on the north side between the road and the channel, and is designed to allow the cables to connect it to the structure below.
“The first option being entertained is the offer of this additional travel lane (sic) on the north side of SW 8th St.,” wrote Alfred Reyna, a transportation department employee working at the project of the bridge. “This first option places the current location of the mast is in conflict with the additional travel lane and would require bridge changes in the design.”
After weeks of back and forth, it was decided to move the pylon 11 metres to the north, are in the neighborhood of the edge of the canal. According to documents, initial cost for the new design were the $204,540, with another $402,723 for the construction changes. The final cost of the modification is not disclosed in the documents.
“The city attorney has advised us not to speak about what to do with the bridge,” said Sandra Antonio, a spokeswoman for the city of Sweetwater, who was busy with the project of the bridge with FIU. The tower was located on the Sweetwater side of the project.
Don Silver, a spokesman for Munilla Construction Management, or MCM, the Miami-based construction management firm that won the bridge contract, said the National Transportation Safety Board had forbidden engineers and contractors to talk about the project in anticipation of the investigation.
MCM together with Tallahassee-based FIGG Bridge Design on the bridge project. A FIGG spokeswoman, Cheryl Stopnick, said that it would be “inappropriate to discuss a specific detail about the bridge design” during the investigation.
A spokeswoman for the FIU not immediately respond Tuesday to questions about the pylon, move into the bridge design.
While the NTSB is in the early stages of the investigation, several engineers who reviewed the documents obtained by the AP said the move of the tower after the bridge first design, invited errors.
Henry Petroski, a professor of civil engineering at Duke University and a leading authority on technical failures, said that even seemingly small changes in a bridge design can lead to malfunctions.
“If a design is successfully completed, the following changes tend to be proposed and approved without the full care that went into the original design. This happened time and time again in bridges and other structures,” he said.
The documents show that more time pressure on the tower of the redesign by the construction of delays due to a bottleneck at the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps was in charge of allowing certain aspects of the new tower of the foot and the other elements, but this was stopped with the granting of licences by the federal cuts. Documents show that the contractors would not begin work on the new tower to the Corp permits were ready, and FIE was afraid that the delays could jeopardize federal funding.
Kenneth Jessell, senior vice-president for financial affairs at FIU, in 2017 expressed concerns that the delays would jeopardize federal TIGER funds for the university of the huge transport redesign, which the bridge was an important part.
When told the permits would probably come by soon, he said, relieved. “This is a new learning experience for FIU, so I appreciate your patience and guidance,” he said, referring to the size of the bridge-building project.
Minutes of the meeting of February also show that the MCM had hired staff after the other party complained about delays.
Bridge engineers reviewed photos of the fall, and the design of schedules in connection with the move of the bridge’s main tower, said that the ill-advised to move it after the first draft was made, but that more research was needed before it could be known whether this played a role in the demise.
Robert Bea, an emeritus engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said the foot of the tower, more flexible after it was moved closer to the channel. This would have created more stress on the bridge section collapsed when crews removed the temporary supports from under, so that the traffic can resume, ” he said.
“At this moment, I do not think that the movement of the foot in front of the pylon to the north was one of the primary factors in the error. However, the movement of the foot led to the requirement for one of the temporary steel supports to be moved in order to be able to travel on the highway,” he said.