A Week Later, Agencies Pursue Investigations Into FIU Bridge Collapse

Mar 23, 2018

Students at Florida International University made a somber return to campus this week after spring break. They prayed at vigils and walked to a memorial erected near the site of last week’s pedestrian bridge collapse.

READ MORE: Campuswide Vigil At FIU Honors Bridge Collapse Victims

In the aftermath of the recovery, local and national officials are trying to piece together what could have caused the collapse.

 


Miami-Dade Police and the National Transportation Safety Board are conducting separate investigations. According to the NTSB, workers were adjusting the tension on tensioning rods when the bridge collapsed. The roadway was not closed during this work.

The Florida Highway Patrol also held a telephone town hall Thursday. About 4,000 people participated. During that call, officials from the university and the city of Sweetwater were discussing building another bridge or some other passage across Southwest Eighth Street.

On a pledge edition of The Florida Roundup, WLRN’s Alicia Zuckerman gets the latest on the collapse with Tony Pipitone, investigative reporter for NBC 6.

ALICIA ZUCKERMAN: Right after the collapse happened last week, we heard about this idea of a stress test.

TONY PIPITONE: It's a misnomer. It was not a stress test at all. There were inspectors there who were watching this work being done and were told it was ordered by the chief engineer, who earlier that morning had met with FDOT and FIU representatives to discuss the cracking and how to address it. But this work was being done. It wasn't a test. It was actually being ordered as they tried to address an issue that arose after the bridge was placed. 

A.Z.: Was that a meeting that was already planned ahead of time or is that a meeting in response to any concerns from that very day?

T.P.: All we know is that one of the items discussed in that meeting was related to the concerns over the cracking, which had been reported two days earlier by the chief engineer Denney Pate to the Florida Department of Transportation. And people on site were well aware of the problem with the cracking; they just didn't know how serious it was.

Now Mr. Pate assured FDOT that it was not a safety issue. That was his determination, based on his analysis, at least on Tuesday. We do know a decision was made or not made to close the road. There was no decision made to close the road and that obviously was a fatal error. 

A.Z.: It certainly was a tragic error. We don't know why that decision was made to keep the road open, right? 

T.P.:  We don't, but we do know about accelerated bridge construction, which is what this technology is being highlighted there. FIU is a national leader in it. One of the big selling points is that you only have to close the road for the positioning of the bridge - sometimes only one day. In this case, it was about two days. So, it's a point of pride for these people that they don't have to close the road. There's a reluctance to close the road because it's not called for. But clearly it was called for in this case, and whether that came into play in the decision-making, I don't know. But it was determined it wasn't a safety issue.

This post was updated.