‘Design errors’ faulted in Florida bridge collapse: U.S. agency

Firefighters spray water on debris from a collapsed pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, U.S., March 16, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said on Thursday that “design errors” were found in a pedestrian bridge that collapsed in March at Florida International University, killing six people and injuring eight.

The board’s investigation update said there were errors in the design of part of the 174-foot (53 metre) Miami span, and that resulted in overestimating the capacity of a critical section. The NTSB said concrete and steel specimens tested met the project’s build plans’ minimum requirements.

A crack in the bridge that was observed prior to the collapse and previously disclosed was “consistent with those errors,” the board said.

The 950-ton, $14.2 million bridge, which crossed an eight-lane highway adjacent to Florida International University (FIU) in Miami-Dade County and linked the campus to the city of Sweetwater, collapsed five days after it was installed.

In March, FIU said engineers and state and university officials had met hours before the new bridge collapsed, but concluded a crack in the structure was not a safety concern.

In August, the NTSB released photos of larger cracks from before the collapse that had been previously known. (https://reut.rs/2FqFW89)

The NTSB said Thursday it had not made any conclusions about the probable cause of the collapse and that the “investigation continues to examine the design, review, and construction processes as well as the actions taken once the cracking was observed.”

A spokesman for Florida Senator Bill Nelson said Thursday’s findings did not address the question of “whether there was proper oversight by regulators in the design and construction of the bridge.”

FIU said in a statement it continues “to fully cooperate with the NTSB” and added it hoped “the results of the investigation will help bring closure to the families and loved ones of the victims.”

FIU has not said if it will rebuild the bridge, a spokeswoman said.

The Florida Department of Transportation said in a statement it was assisting the NTSB but did not comment on the findings.

The assessment of design errors was made by the Federal Highway Administration, the NTSB said.

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