Company behind bridge that collapsed in Miami also vying for Mobile River bridge project

Pedestrian bridge collapse in Miami (Pool)

FIGG Bridge Engineers, one of two companies building the bridge at Florida International University, which collapsed on Thursday, is also vying for the job to build the Mobile River Bridge, according to a statement released by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) back in February.

According to the FIGG's website, the engineering company also worked on two other famous bridges on the Gulf Coast: the Dauphin Island Bridge and the Cochrane-Africatown Bridge.

The company was also reportedly fined by the Virginia Department of Labor in 2012 after a slab of concrete fell from a bridge it was building near Norfolk.According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the company was fined an initial penalty of $28,000 in 2012 stemming from four violations in Virginia.

Fast forward to 2018, six people were killed and 10 others hospitalized in the collapse of the pedestrian bridge under construction at Florida International University, police said Friday as state and federal investigators worked to determine how and why the five-day-old span failed.

The $14.2 million pedestrian bridge was supposed to open in 2019 as a safe way to cross a busy road between the university campus and the community of Sweetwater, where many students live.

FIGG Released the following statement about the incident:

“We are stunned by today’s tragic collapse of a pedestrian bridge that was under construction over Southwest Eighth Street in Miami. 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.”

FIGG also wrote in a follow up statement:

"This is an unprecedented event – no other bridge designed by FIGG Bridge Engineers has ever experienced such a collapse. FIGG-designed bridges have proven to be incredibly durable. For example, we have worked on more than 230 bridges throughout the United States and have designed nearly 35 miles of bridges in the southeastern Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico that have withstood multiple hurricanes."

FIGG indicated it would answer written questions about its relation to the Mobile River Bridge Project, and other local bridges, later in the day, Friday, but so far, FOX10 News Investigates has not received a follow up response.

Allison Gregg, a spokesperson for the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project, told FOX10 News the organization "will continue to track the investigation and apply lessons learned as appropriate."

She said if FIGG were to be hired for the Mobile River Bridge Project, the construction approach would be totally different from that of what was used in Miami.

"They were using a construction approach called accelerated bridge construction, because of our project, we most likely will not use that type of construction, we are a much bigger project, and so we will have a very different approach to construction," Gregg explained.

The Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project has narrowed its choices to three teams, with FIGG Engineering being a part of one of those teams.

Gregg said the winning team should be chosen by the end of the year.

As for the existing bridges in Mobile (the Cochrane-Africatown Bridge and the Dauphin Island Bridge), an ALDOT spokesperson told us comparing the bridge in Miami to the bridges here is like comparing apples to oranges.

"It's never appropriate to speculate, draw conclusions, or draw connections between projects that are as different as night and day. And that's what you're dealing with when you compare a pedestrian bridge to a vehicle traffic bridge," said Tony Harris, from the ALDOT Montgomery office.

More than two decades ago, FIGG was involved in the construction of two major bridges in Mobile County.

The first was the reconstruction of the Dauphin Island Bridge, which was wiped out by Hurricane Frederic in 1979. According to its website, Figg Engineers was part of replacing the 17,000 foot bridge in less than three years.

About ten years later, Figg Engineers was also involved in finishing the Cochrane-Africatown Bridge, when the original contractor was removed from the project a third of the way in. The company claims it also helped repair the bridge from storm damage in 2005.

After Thursday's collapse in Miami, it's business as usual for ALDOT. Workers will continue to inspect bridges in Alabama every two years.

"We certainly will monitor the investigation and what comes from the investigation to see if there's anything relevant for us to learn and apply in Alabama. But with our inspection program and condition of bridges in Alabama, I think people should rest easy that their bridges are in good condition," said Harris.

FOX10 News Investigates will keep you posted as the project moves forward.

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Investigative Reporter

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