Classes resumed Monday, but the bridge’s deadly collapse means life “will be far from normal,” the university said in a statement. The accident Thursday afternoon left six people dead and has rattled FIU, a public university with an enrollment of about 50,000 students.
“This tragedy hits home. We all had family and friends in the area, and we’re shaken,” FIU President Mark Rosenberg said.
The $14.2 million bridge was built to avoid such a tragedy. Last August, a university student attempting to cross Southwest 8th Street, the busy thoroughfare alongside campus, was hit by a vehicle and died.
The pedestrian bridge, designed by FIGG Engineering-Bridge Group and built by MCM Construction, was designed to straddle 8th Street and connect the campus to the nearby Sweetwater neighborhood, where thousands of students live. The bridge was built using Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) technology, a method that is supposed to be more cost effective and quicker than other options.
The main span of the bridge, a 950-ton mass of steel and concrete, was designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, the university said in a fact sheet. The span was built alongside the road to avoid major traffic issues, and was lifted into place over the roadway on March 10.
But shortly after it was put into place, an engineer discovered some worrisome cracking in the bridge’s north end. Experts assessed the cracking and declared the bridge safe on Thursday morning — just hours before the bridge collapsed onto unsuspecting drivers.
The cracking “does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe,” Robert Accetta of the National Transportation Safety Board said. An investigation over the coming months will determine exactly how the bridge failed.
Six people, including a student, a construction worker, and a father of three, died in the bridge collapse. The victims were identified as Alexa Duran, 18; Oswald Gonzalez, 57; Alberto Arias, 53; Brandon Brownfield; Navarro Brown, 37; and Rolando Fraga Hernandez.
Federal payments stopped
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday ordered the Florida Department of Transportation to suspend payment of all federal funding allocated for the FIU pedestrian bridge, according to a press release from his office. The department acted as a “pass-through” for that funding. It will be withheld indefinitely, pending the completion of the NTSB investigation into the bridge collapse.
“Last week, the lives of six Floridians were tragically lost when the FIU pedestrian bridge suddenly collapsed onto SW 8th Street in Miami. Ann and I are heartbroken for these families and while we continue to mourn the loss of these individuals, we are also searching for answers,” he said.
“Today, I am directing FDOT to suspend all future payments of the more than $13.6 million in federal funding originally allocated for this project. Before another dollar is spent on this bridge, we must know exactly what happened. FDOT is working hand-in-hand with the NTSB in its investigation and until this is completed, all taxpayer dollars will be withheld.”