West Miami-Dade

‘Instant’ bridge aims to make a dangerous crossing safer for thousands of students

UPDATE: The FIU pedestrian bridge collapsed, less than a week after installation.

Instant bridge? Not quite, but in a single morning Florida International University dropped a new elevated pedestrian span into place over the Tamiami Trail to provide students a safe route over the perilous roadway for the first time.

Once it’s finished in early 2019, the new pedestrian bridge will link FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus directly to the small suburban city of Sweetwater, where the university estimates 4,000 of its students live.

The rapid span installation was the result of months of preparation. The bridge’s main 174-foot span was assembled by the side of the Trail while support towers were built at either end.

The 950-ton span was then picked up, moved and lowered into place by special gantry cranes at the intersection of Southwest 109th Avenue in an operation that lasted several hours Saturday morning. A section of the Trail, also designated as Southwest Eighth Street, was closed to traffic Friday evening for the bridge installation, and will remain shut until 5 a.m. Monday.

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Early morning view of the main span of the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Pedestrian Bridge as it was lifted from its temporary supports, rotated 90 degrees across an eight-lane thoroughfare and lowered into its permanent position over Southwest Eighth Street on Saturday, March 10, 2018. Pedro Portal pportal@miamiherald.com

The innovative installation method significantly reduced risks to workers, pedestrians and motorists and minimized traffic disruptions, FIU said. The architecturally distinctive, cable-supported bridge is the product of a collaboration between MCM Construction and FIGG Bridge Design, the firm responsible for the iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay.

Students and faculty have long been clamoring for a bridge at the 109th Street crossing, where students on foot have to get across seven lanes of jam-packed traffic that divide the campus from Sweetwater. Though FIU provides shuttles, many students prefer to walk. In August, FIU undergraduate Alexis Dale was hit and killed by a motorist while crossing the intersection.

The $14.2 million bridge, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, also includes new sidewalks and a plaza. The project will also boast benches, tables, shade and even Wi-Fi. It’s all part of a broader FIU-led “prosperity” project that aims to curb traffic congestion in the area and help Sweetwater improve its downtown, which sits just north of the bridge.

A rendering shows the completed pedestrian bridge connecting Florida International University’s main campus to Sweetwater over the Tamiami Trail (Southwest Eighth Street). Adam Cohen/City of Sweetwater

Under that plan, private developers are building a cluster of apartment towers that cater to FIU students, all to be linked to campus by the new pedestrian bridge. The 109 Tower and 4th Street Commons are already open.

A third, the 866-unit University Bridge Apartments, is scheduled to break ground in June. The new bridge will lead directly to its doorstep.

Here is infomation on this weekend’s detours:

▪ Westbound traffic will be rerouted via southbound Southwest 107th Avenue, westbound Southwest 24th Street (Coral Way) and northbound Southwest 117th Avenue.

▪ Eastbound traffic will detour via southbound Southwest 117th Avenue, eastbound Southwest 24th Street (Coral Way) and northbound 107th Avenue.

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