Miami Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo were visibly shaken as they talked about the bridge collapse in Miami across from the main Florida International University campus.
The pedestrian bridge across Southwest Eighth Street sits on the border of Diaz-Balart’s and Curbelo’s congressional districts.
“There’s a very sad irony here. This project was built to keep students safe and pedestrians safe and it has ended up being the cause of death of drivers underneath,” Curbelo said.
Curbelo and Diaz-Balart both spoke with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Thursday afternoon. They said they’re unsure if the federal government has jurisdiction over the bridge, though it used federal funds. Both members of Congress said they would support any federal investigation or congressional hearings to figure out what happened, even if the federal government doesn’t have jurisdiction over the bridge.
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“There’s going to be a lot of questions that are going to have to be answered,” Diaz-Balart said.
Diaz-Balart was present for a dedication ceremony for the bridge last weekend.
The uncompleted pedestrian bridge received federal funds through a Tiger Grant, which was part of the massive federal stimulus package passed by former President Barack Obama, Curbelo and Diaz-Balart said.
“We’re going to find out what the heck happened here. This is beyond tragic,” Diaz-Balart said.
Curbelo said the bridge’s accelerated construction method, where the span was elevated over Southwest Eighth Street in a matter of hours last week, has been used in other projects in Miami-Dade County.
“This is a new technology,” Curbelo said. “My understanding is even on major highways like the 836-826 exchange this type of bridge technology is in place and there’s never been any issue with it, so this is just very surprising and we need to figure out what happened.”
Sen. Marco Rubio sent out a statement about the bridge collapse. He has taught classes on politics there for the past decade.
“Today’s bridge collapse is shocking and tragic. For me, Florida International University, where I have been an adjunct professor for 10 years, is home.... Jeanette and I are praying for the victims, their families and the entire Panther community.”