Firm that designed collapsed Florida bridge worked on I-35W replacement

Six people died when the walkway collapsed onto traffic on Thursday.
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The engineering firm that designed the walkway in Florida that collapsed on Thursday, killing six, also designed the I-35W replacement bridge following the 2007 disaster.

FIGG Engineering lists the I-35W bridge as among its projects on its website, noting it was an "emergency replacement, fast-track design/build" that took 11 months to complete and opened three months ahead of schedule.

FIGG also designed the Wabasha Freedom Bridge in St. Paul. There is no indication of any safety concerns to either of these bridges.

The company has come under renewed scrutiny after it used "Accelerated Bridge Construction" (ABC) to construct a pedestrian walkway for Florida International University across a multi-lane road in Miami, which collapsed onto traffic on Thursday, killing six people.

Related:

– 10 years on from the I-35W bridge collapse.

This accelerated construction is designed to minimize risks to workers, commuters and reduce traffic disruption, CBS reports, by building the span of the bridge off-site so it could be installed across the highway in a short space of time.

FOX 9 notes that the 174-foot span was put into place this past weekend before its central support tower was built, with construction then continuing throughout this week up until the collapse.

Both the companies involved in the construction have had issues in the past, with CBS noting FIGG was fined in 2012 when a 90-ton portion of bridge it was assembling fell apart while under construction – fortunately nobody was killed.

This is a new way of building bridges

Tim Nelson, the vice president of bridge building company Robert R. Schroeder Construction in Glenwood, Minnesota, says ABC is a relatively new concept in the industry.

"The piers were built and then the concrete superstructure (the actual bridge, the walking path) was built off-site and then moved into position and set in place," he told GoMN.

"That bridge was built off to the side and put on a big multi-wheel cart, and it was actually turned 90 degrees and then rolled into position and set on top.

"They're doing that on a lot of jobs for fast track when they don't want to inconvenience the public. Pre-build it off-site and then move it into position and set it down."

Nelson speculated that it's possible the bridge deck was damaged as it was moved into place, though said it's purely a guess not having worked specifically on that bridge.

Just this past weekend as the bridge was being swung into place, Florida International University hailed the structure as "an outstanding example of the ABC method.

"Building the major element of the bridge – its main span superstructure – outside of the traveled way and away from busy Eighth Street is a milestone," Atorod Azizinamini, the director of the university's Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center, said in a press release.

In a statement, FIGG Engineering said: "Our deepest sympathies are with all those affected by this accident.

"We will fully cooperate with every appropriate authority in reviewing what happened and why. In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before. Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved."

Editor's note: In the interests of full disclosure, Tim Nelson is a relative of GoMN's sports editor Joe Nelson.

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New exhibit honors I-35W bridge collapse rescue workers

A new exhibit opened Saturday at the Firefighters Hall and Museum in northeast Minneapolis to commemorate the efforts of rescue workers after the Interstate 35W bridge collapse on Aug. 1, 2007. Titled "81 Minutes: After the Bridge Collapse," the exhibit chronicles the training that happened ahead of the collapse and the collaboration between firefighters and residents after.