It has been two years since a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University collapsed and killed six people, including an FIU student. Today, the Florida Department of Transportation announced plans to construct a new bridge at the same intersection.
In a press release, the department said it plans to begin designing the new bridge at SW Eighth Street and SW 109th Avenue in 2021. The design process will take two years, and then construction will take two more years.
The previous bridge went up on March 10, 2018, using a method called accelerated bridge construction. Five days later, the bridge collapsed over SW Eighth Street, falling on several vehicles. Police pulled numerous injured victims from the wreckage, but six people lost their lives.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board found that one of the engineering firms contracted to consult on the bridge was not qualified to work on the project. The NTSB also found that FIGG Bridge Group, the engineering firm that designed the project, could have and should have noticed serious problems with the structure and delayed the project before the bridge went up.
FIU officials have maintained that despite the tragedy, a bridge is necessary to safely get pedestrians to and from FIU and the nearby city of Sweetwater, citing multiple crashes involving people who've attempted to cross busy SW Eighth Street on foot.
"We thank the governor of the State of Florida, Ron DeSantis, for his support in moving forward the new pedestrian bridge project," FIU Senior Vice President Kenneth Jessell wrote in an email to New Times. "We look forward to working collaboratively with FDOT and the City of Sweetwater on the new bridge to help keep our students safe. We will look for an appropriate way to memorialize the victims of the 2018 accident."
In its press release, the FDOT says it has employed new safety measures to ensure the same fatal mistakes don't happen again.
"FDOT has learned valuable lessons since the tragic events surrounding the FIU bridge collapse two years ago," FDOT Secretary Kevin J. Thibault wrote. "The Department has worked closely with the NTSB and local partners to ensure proactive safety measures are included in the plans for this much-needed bridge."
An FDOT statement from October 2019 said new guidance dictates that if any of the agencies, design firms, or contractors notice a problem with a project, it must immediately act to close the involved highway if the issue presents "material risks to the traveling public."
The entities involved in the original bridge — FDOT, FIU, FIGG, and Munilla Construction Management — had failed to call for the closure of SW Eighth Street after discovering cracks in the support structures of the original bridge shortly before the 950-ton span collapsed.