MCM and FIGG, the construction firms behind the collapsed FIU bridge faced fines, lawsuits over previous safety lapses
A special construction method was used on the pedestrian bridge that collapsed in Florida on Thursday, killing several people. The method is known as “accelerated bridge construction,” and it’s meant to minimize traffic disruption and maximize safety.
But CBS News has learned that two firms involved in the construction have been accused of unsafe practices in the past.
Munilla Construction Management [MCM], in partnership with FIGG Engineering, is responsible for building the bridge on Southwest Eighth Street and 109th Avenue just north of the FIU campus.
Local news station local10 reports that the South Florida company behind the construction of the FIU bridge that collapsed Thursday leaving at least six dead had been served with a previous lawsuit for “shoddy work.”
The Florida Department of Transportation employees released a statement separating themselves from the project and highlighting a requirement that FIU didn’t fulfill relating to a secondary design check. MCM was facing scrutiny over a lawsuit related to a “makeshift bridge” at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport where airport workers had to walk to reach restrooms. In October 2016, Joe Perez, a TSA worker fell while walking along the bridge when it “broke under [his] weight.”
Perez’s lawyer, Tesha Allison observed: “They built this makeshift bridge in the area where all the employees work, and it was poorly done,” Tesha Allison said, adding, “He [Perez], had multiple broken bones and damage to his spine … They did shoddy work.”
This past Saturday, it was a moment of celebration for Florida International University (FIU) when the pedestrian bridge was put into place. FIU posted a time-lapse video showing of the event.
“This is a dream come true for our university,” FIU president Mark Rosenberg said.
The bridge collapse killed up to six people, including a student, and crushed several vehicles
Rosenberg hailed the design of the bridge. It was supposed to last 100 years and be able to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. At 174-feet long and 950 tons, the main span of the bridge was lifted from its temporary supports and rotated 90 degrees across eight lanes of highway. It would become the largest pedestrian bridge moved this way in U.S. history.
Munilla Construction Management [MCM] — a federal military contractor for the U.S. Army and Navy — partnered with the FIGG Bridge Group to complete the bridge.
MCM is a Cuban-American, family owned company founded in 1983 with headquarters in South Florida, but with offices in Texas and Panama and employs more than 1,000 people. MCM specializes in building and heavy civil construction, aviation, transportation, roads and bridges.
The second partner on the collapsed Florida International University bridge project is FIGG out of Tallahassee, Florida. The construction company lists among its credits, designing Boston’s famous Leonard P. Zakim Bridge and Florida’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa. The company has no contracts with the Kennedy Space Center and NASA.
FIGG reportedly, built a $233.8 million replacement bridge after the 2007 collapse of the Highway 35 West bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
It wasn’t just people, but several vehicles, which had stopped at a red light that were crushed when the bridge collapsed at FIU
Cranes are deployed in the search for survivors after a newly installed pedestrian bridge collapsed at Florida International University, Miami on Friday
However, the Virginia Department of Labor cited FIGG for safety violations after a portion of a bridge the company was assembling in Virginia in June 2012 fell apart while under construction. A 90-ton portion of concrete fell from a bridge under construction near Norfolk, Virginia onto railroad tracks below. Four workers suffered injuries, according to media reports, and state regulators fined FIGG $28,000 for safety violations saying it was “pure luck no one was killed.”
Both MCM and FIGG said they will cooperate with investigators on the scene. FIGG added they are stunned, and that in their 40-year history nothing like this has ever happened before. Workers at the scene report that Thursday the bridge was reportedly undergoing some sort of stress test.
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