Doral

Miami Dade College’s collapsed garage has a long way to go before it’s fixed

Two years after a garage collapsed at Miami Dade College’s west campus in Doral, there is still no relief for the more than 6,000 students who attend the college there. The college has said its hands are tied due to litigation. Students either have to park at Miami International Mall and take a shuttle or find a spot along 117th Avenue, a public right-of-way, and walk. This is the vacant garage on Wednesday, October 8, 2014.
Two years after a garage collapsed at Miami Dade College’s west campus in Doral, there is still no relief for the more than 6,000 students who attend the college there. The college has said its hands are tied due to litigation. Students either have to park at Miami International Mall and take a shuttle or find a spot along 117th Avenue, a public right-of-way, and walk. This is the vacant garage on Wednesday, October 8, 2014. Miami Herald Staff

The parking garage that collapsed at Miami Dade College’s Doral campus two years ago on Friday won’t be rebuilt and running for at least another 18 months to two years.

That doesn’t sit well with the school’s 6,000 commuter students, who’ve been forced to park up to a mile away in the grass along busy 117th Avenue or take a shuttle from Miami International Mall — three miles away.

“It’s not easy to get to class on time,” said Ricardo Zinateoly, who was sweating after walking about a half mile to get to his car parked along 117th Avenue on Wednesday afternoon. “You have to time it right to get a better spot.”

The school says its hands are tied as the case moves through the legal system — leaving a half-built, fenced-off garage that needs to be torn down and rebuilt. A major chunk of the garage, which was under construction, collapsed Oct. 10, 2012, killing four construction workers and injuring seven.

“Miami Dade College understands the challenges with parking at MDC West and has provided some temporary alternatives,” Juan C. Mendieta, the school’s director of communications, said in a statement. “However, legal action has limited the college’s ability to address the issue more swiftly. Within these constraints, MDC is working as diligently and expeditiously as possible to resolve the situation.”

The college, at 3800 NW 115th Ave. in Doral, has provided two options for its students: Park in the grassy right-of-way along Northwest 117th Avenue and walk around a canal to get to the campus, which can be about a mile walk. Or take a free shuttle from Miami International Mall, which is about three miles away.

The college said Wednesday that demolition of the garage won’t begin until winter break at the earliest. The college “is working with a new builder to start the demolition of the damaged garage structure during the college’s winter recess later this year,” Mendieta said in the statement. “Dismantling the structure will take three to five months. Following demolition, the builder will construct a new garage structure.”

Building a new garage could take a year or so. Construction on the garage that collapsed had begun in January 2012 and was supposed to be completed by the end of 2012. The college was building the $22.5 million garage to accommodate the increasing number of students at the campus, which opened in 2006.

Two days before the accident, however, a crane had struck a column, probably helping to precipitate the collapse, attorneys have said.

Killed were: Robert Budhoo, 53, who worked for Stryker Electric, and whose body was not found for two days after the incident; Carlos Hurtado de Mendoza, 48, a concrete setter; Jose Calderon, 60, who worked more than 30 years in construction; and Samuel Perez, 53, a concrete truck manager for a project subcontractor.

The families of the four men and the injured reached a settlement in lawsuits filed against the general contractor, Ajax Building Corp., and four subcontractors: MEP Structural and Inspections, Florida Lemark Corp., Coreslab Structures Miami and Solar Erectors US, court records show.

Details on the settlement and what the survivors’ families were paid was not disclosed. Mendieta would not comment on the litigation, only responding with the prepared statement.

Last April, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the five companies, saying the contractors failed to properly secure and inspect the columns and other structural elements. OSHA issued fines ranging from $4,900 to $7,000 against Ajax and the four subcontractors.

Miami Dade College was not a subject of the OSHA investigation. Though the school had commissioned the project, it was not legally liable for the collapse because the garage was not finished and had not been accepted by MDC, attorneys have said.

For months after the accident, the campus sat empty, with students being shuttled to different MDC campuses. Miami Dade College has nine campuses, including an entrepreneurial educational center and a medical campus that trains nurses and other healthcare professionals.

When classes resumed in January 2013, there was no parking. Instead the school made a deal with Miami International Mall to allow for a shuttle stop. The shuttle runs about every 25 minutes from 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. every day.

The college also has worked with the city of Doral to facilitate parking alongside the grassy swale of Northwest 117th Avenue, a busy thoroughfare. Students say parking next to the busy street can be dangerous, since there are no sidewalks.

“It gets pretty busy around here,” said business administration student Gianluca Cuorvo, who was walking to his car after taking classes on Wednesday afternoon. Cuorvo said he tries to time it around other students leaving.

Doral Police Lt. Gary King said that while students are allowed to park on 117th Avenue, the city is working with the school to make it safer. King said he could not comment on what the city and police department are doing to make it safer because a safety parking plan that was sent to the college has not been approved yet.

Zinateoly, a business student, said fixing the parking problems should be a school priority.

“I don’t understand why they haven’t done any work on the garage,” he said.

Added Lorena Cardenas, a sophomore who is studying business and takes the shuttle from Miami International Mall daily: “It’ll probably open when I graduate. I hope I’m wrong.

Miami Herald reporter Monique O. Madan contributed to this report.

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