Florida International University’s president on Monday defended the school’s handling of a project to build a pedestrian bridge that collapsed onto traffic Thursday, killing six and leaving behind questions about what exactly went wrong.
“FIU has a thorough process for hiring contractors for building projects and works with all appropriate authorities to follow the legal and regulatory requirements,” President Mark Rosenberg said Monday in a letter to the “university community” released through a university spokeswoman. “We are confident that FIU followed all proper procedures and protocols.”
Rosenberg said FIU is working with the National Transportation Safety Board — the federal agency leading the investigation into what happened — and has “a sense of urgency about getting to the bottom of the incident.” In close coordination with the state, the university acted as the lead agency on the bridge project, pushing for a federal funding grant, selecting a developer and conducting inspections.
Among the six killed in the collapse was FIU student Alexa Duran, an Alpha Xi Delta sorority member. A 10 a.m. Wednesday vigil is scheduled to honor Duran, Rosenberg said, followed by a walk to a site designated for flowers and remembrances at Southwest 107th Avenue and 8th Street. Alpha Xi Delta will also be hosting a remembrance event on Thursday evening.
We are confident that FIU followed all proper procedures and protocols
FIU President Mark Rosenberg
“This tragedy hit home; we all had family and friends in the area, and we are still shaken to the core,” Rosenberg wrote.
Rosenberg and the university have been reeling since 1:47 p.m. Thursday, when a 174-foot section of a $14.3 million pedestrian bridge collapsed onto Tamiami Trail, crushing cars and people beneath it. Only days earlier, Rosenberg and university officials had celebrated the erection of the span, which was constructed on the side of the road and lifted into place by heavy machinery in a process called accelerated bridge construction.
The bridge, which connected the university to Sweetwater, a tiny city to the north where thousands of students live, was slated to be completed next year.
The structure’s catastrophic failure was a massive blow to the university’s reputation. But FIU has more at stake as victims’ families prepare lawsuits and the state on Monday promised to withhold any unreleased federal funding for the project.
So, as FIU resumed classes Monday following spring break, Rosenberg sought to assure the public that the institution was diligent in pursuing the project, and that the school remains focused on finding the cause. He stressed that “FIU did not design or build the bridge,” which was engineered by FIGG Bridge Group and built by Munilla Construction Management, and set into place four days before the collapse by Barnhart Crane and Rigging.
Rosenberg also reiterated that the Florida Department of Transportation was the administering agency on the Local Agency Program overseeing the federal grant, and that Bolton Perez and Associates were hired to provide construction and engineering inspections.
Additionally, Rosenberg announced that a Tuesday blood drive will be conducted from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in parking lot 33 adjacent to the Graham Center ballrooms in order to support those who are still in the hospital.