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Collapsed FIU Bridge Was Funded by Federal Grant Program Criticized for Shoddy, Politicized Review Process

The TIGER grant program has come under fire for putting politics ahead of technical concerns.

Pedro Portal/TNS/NewscomPedro Portal/TNS/NewscomThe pedestrian bridge that collapsed at Florida International University's Miami-Dade campus today, killing several people, was funded with $11.4 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. The TIGER program has come under repeated fire for awarding money based on politics rather than merit.

Eight vehicles were reportedly crushed when the 174-foot, 950-ton pedestrian bridge, installed Saturday over Southwest Eighth Street in Miami, collapsed this afternoon. The bridge was supposed to demonstrate methods developed by FIU's Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center (ABC-UTC), whose work is also funded by U.S. DOT grants.

"This project is an outstanding example of the ABC method," said Atorod Azizinamini, the center's director, in a press release on Saturday. "This bridge is the result of great support from our congressional delegation and the U.S. Department of Transportation," said FIU CFO Kenneth Jessell in the same press release. "FIU and our surrounding community will benefit from this project for generations to come."

In 2013, the FIU was awarded $11.4 million in TIGER money for its University City Prosperity Project, which included the pedestrian bridge. Some 52 projects were awarded $458 million in that round of TIGER grants—known as TIGER V—using methodology that was later criticized by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for violating DOT's own standards.

DOT staff are tasked with evaluating all applications to the TIGER program for how closely they adhere to several "desired long-term transportation outcomes," including economic competitiveness, state of good repair, livability, environmental sustainability, and safety. Each project is assigned a rating that ranges from acceptable to highly recommended.

In 2014, the GAO released a report that was highly critical of how DOT handled the TIGER V grants, which included money for the FIU pedestrian bridge project. The report said DOT advanced projects with lower technical ratings in lieu of those with higher technical ratings and upgraded the technical rating of 19 projects from acceptable or recommended to highly recommended without documenting a justification. It is unclear from the GAO report whether the FIU bridge project was advanced over more qualified projects or if its technical rating was subsequently upgraded, since the report does not give project-by-project detail.

TIGER, which Reason has covered here, here and here, was created as an economic stimulus measure under President Barack Obama and morphed into a permanent program. It has awarded $5.6 billion in nine rounds of grants since 2009.

A 2012 report from the Reason Foundation, which publishes this website, found that 40 percent of the grants in the first two TIGER rounds went to districts represented by Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The four highest-ranking Democrats on the same committee each received at least one TIGER grant.

Members of Florida's congressional delegation publicly lauded the TIGER award to FIU. "Thanks to this TIGER funding, FIU students will be able to walk from their student housing to class through a pedestrian bridge across Southwest Eighth Street," Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) said in 2013. "More jobs will be created in our community thanks to this grant, and I look forward to celebrating the project's success with everyone in South Florida."

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R–Fla.) made similar comments on Saturday. "FIU has come a long way since the TIGER grant that funded this pedestrian bridge was awarded in 2013," he said. "This project represents a true collaboration among so many different partners at local, state, and federal levels, and in both the public and private sectors."

The precise cause of the bridge's collapse has not been determined yet, and neither has the total number of dead and injured.

Photo Credit: Pedro Portal/TNS/Newscom

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  • Rich||

    The bridge was supposed to demonstrate methods developed by FIU's Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center

    , and it did.

  • AlgerHiss||

    You'll probably find union labor involved too. And we all know that always spells shoddy work.

  • Spaced out||

    And I bet Democrats were the workers but the Republicans were surely those poor victims. This bridge confirms all of your dreams.

  • SQRLSY One||

  • Chumby||

    Jenefer, please go through Reason's "General Hooker Entrance"

  • Ron||

    "The bridge was supposed to demonstrate methods developed by FIU's Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center (ABC-UTC), whose work is also funded by U.S. DOT"

    When i first heard of this while driving I thought i bet it was an engineer professor who never built a thing in real life and had all his students do the math

  • Sugarsail||

    If you knew anything about engineering professors you'd know they must be licensed and that licenses requires on-the-job hands-on experience in the work place before you can even take the board exam. So the notion that some engineering professor is teaching that has never built a real thing in his life is absurd. This bridge's design was certainly determined by the influence of lawyers, politicians and accountants, but the engineers will likely shoulder the blame as usual. Same thing happened in both space shuttle disasters...engineers said, "bad idea," politicians said, "do it anyway." I've seen this so many times in engineering that I dropped out of the profession...too much liability, not enough pay.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    WRONG.

    I've known many engineering professors, having been an engineer with a MSEE for 27 years. A good number of professors are strictly academic, with no real world experience.

  • ||

    WRONG.

    I've known many engineering professors, having been an engineer with a MSEE for 27 years. A good number of professors are strictly academic, with no real world experience.

    I'd say there's a vast continent of open ground between the two statements. Just as with the term 'doctor' in general and especially in the biomedical fields, there's lots of overlap with whom one considers and engineering professor and what their experience is.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    I would consider them a professor if their business card says "professor" and they're from a university with an engineering program.

  • ||

    So, adjunct professor, assistant professor, and professor emeritus all hold the same 'professor' rank but visiting scholar, guest lecturer, distinguished or honorary presenter are all distinctly inferior to 'professor', right?

  • Mark22||

    I'd say there's a vast continent of open ground between the two statements.

    No, not really:

    Statement 1: i bet it was an engineer professor who never built a thing in real life

    Statement 2: If you knew anything about engineering professors you'd know they must be licensed and that licenses requires on-the-job hands-on experience in the work place before you can even take the board exam.

    There is no middle ground between "some engineering professors are not licensed engineers and/or do not have practical experience" and "all engineering professors must be licensed engineers and must have practical experience". None whatsoever.

    And Statement 1 is vastly more plausible than Statement 2.

  • Greg F||

    A good number of professors are strictly academic, with no real world experience.


    I had to deal with a product from a MIT professor turned green entrepreneur. This professor was in his mid 50's and obviously had never designed anything that went to market. It worked. Kind of. But if you looked at it cross eyed you could brick it.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    But the quality of his NSF grant proposals was IMPECCABLE. All of his friends on the review board who approved it said so.

  • MoreFreedom||

    I have to agree. Searching for professor of engineering jobs at SFU doesn't specify any professional license requirement, or even experience in the field:

    "Department Name/ Dept Number: Mechanical Engineering/ 0-2105-000

    College: College of Engineering

    Job Code/ Title: 9004/ Instructor

    POSITION SUMMARY:

    The Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of South Florida invites applications for one 12 month non-tenure position at the Instructor level starting August 2018. Applicants in all the areas of mechanical engineering discipline including design, manufacturing and fluid/thermal systems with programming experience are encouraged to apply for this position.

    POSITION QUALIFICATIONS

    Minimum Qualifications:

    This position requires an earned doctoral degree in Mechanical Engineering or a closely related field with preference to relevant experience. The position requires a strong interest in teaching, supervision of student design projects, and developing new undergraduate mechanical engineering laboratory experiments.

    Preferred Qualifications:

    Prior teaching experience and expertise in facilitating engineering design projects and programming is desired. "

  • Brandybuck||

    Since when do professors of anything need licenses?

  • ||

    I don't know about other states but in Florida, engineering professors in the state university system are required by law to have a current Florida engineering licence. I may be wrong but I believe that this law does not apply to private schools.

  • Ron||

    I work with an engineer who is also teaching professor. I know how he works he told me, I wouldn't trust him with an outhouse

  • Libertymike||

    He must be a shitty engineer.

  • Trainer||

    Which is usually the kind of professional who decides to make a career In academics. Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    And those who can't teach get some other government job...

  • FlameCCT||

    Those who can do, those who can't teach!

  • Tionico||

    My Dad was one of those engineers. He tagged two flaws, possibly fatal, in the moon landing/Saturn rocket system. He detailed WHY and HOW the tragedies could result, and recommended changes to prevent that. When Apollo 13 radioed "Houston we hav a problem". he knew instantly what had happened...... and why. Well, they got those guys back OK, but the programme was shut down to "fix" the problem, The "fix"? Someone remembered his report from way back when, they found it, and that is what they implemented. Budget concerns sideined his concerns in the development stage.. It cost a WHOLE lot more to go back, reengineer to dad's specs, remake the components affected.

    He was watching the launch as it rose up, streaked away, then saw the puff of smoke...... and, again, he knew instatntly what had happened.. and that none of the astronauts wuld survive. THT one really tore him up. Once more, his solution was the change order for the seal ring system at the nozzle root..... he saw the weakness and high likelihood of failure, and its disastrous consequences. Again, budget constraints had "shot down" his recommended changes. Instead of millionis to redesign and change the seal rings, they moved ahead, and spent billions.... and sacrificed three lives. Politics, indeed.

  • Mark22||

    Budget concerns sideined his concerns in the development stage.

    Quite ironic given the bottomless pit of money that the US space program has been.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    On the sealing rings, the best fix would have been to go with the original one piece boosters to be built on site. The only reason they needed sealing rings in the first place, was so that they could build the boosters in sections small enough to ship from a critical Congressman's district.

  • ||

    When i first heard of this while driving I thought i bet it was an engineer professor who never built a thing in real life and had all his students do the math

    How about an engineering education professor who's actually opposed to rigor in education and even engineering?

  • Libertymike||

    I took your click bait to confirm my immediate suspicions and surprise, surprise, surprise! Social justice oriented suspicions confirmed.

    Math is a wholly owned subsidiary of the white patriarchy.

  • Nardz||

    Is that the Purdue professor - the one who appears both obsessed with and repulsed by dick?

  • Careless||

    It's actually more than one Purdue engineering professor, and one of them is the head of the damned department. One of the top 10 or so engineering schools in the country run by a completely addled SJW loon

  • Nardz||

    Well...
    That's a bit terrifying

  • Brett Bellmore||

    We could make it self-correcting: Just require them to design their own facilities.

  • Nardz||

    Brett, that is a great idea

  • J Neil Schulman||

    Oh, but this can't be! It's not the fault of the NRA. It's not Trump's fault. David Hogg isn't in front of a microphone denouncing it. Pious praise for first responders is the only mention of government and in two languages this is not going to end up being a bribery scandal, of course not.

  • Jerryskids||

    From what I've been hearing, this wasn't actually a bridge that collapsed but just the deck - the actual bridge wasn't scheduled to open until next year because it was designed as a cable-supported bridge. Without the cabling and the towers, you've just got a slab of concrete laying across the road, unable to support its own weight.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Well, you know that sometimes you have to wait a long time for the cable guy to show up...

  • Sal Paradise||

    Uli : Hello. Mein dizbatcher says zere iss somezing wrong mit deine kable.

    Bunny Lebowski : Yeah, come on in, I'm not really sure exactly what's really wrong with the cable.

    Uli : Dat's vhy day zent me, I'm un exspert.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Yet the Golden Gate Bridge has been up for over 81 years and they built the towers early and the deck later.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    The size of the bridge and technologies of the day probably dictated that. GGB is slightly longer than a footbridge.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    The technologies of the day being an education system that valued education and attracted students that were highly motivated to become educated, and a work force that would get fired if they didn't do a damn good job.

  • Page Turner||

    It was also built a whole lot faster than this Obama Memorial Pedestrian Skyway.

  • Trollificus||

    I'm sure you'll find all these Obama-era "stimulus-grants-turned-permanent--program" are bank-account-ready.

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    Why would anyone build a cable-supported bridge, and put the deck in before the cables? That makes no sense.

  • BigT||

    The cables are mere decorative add-ons?

  • ||

    It was a cable stayed bridge. That is different from a suspension bridge.

    Building the deck first is common for short spans like pedestrian bridges. The trick is to have temporary support while the cables are installed and tensioned. The erector presumably believed that the unloaded deck alone could span the eight lane street unsupported. Presumable the design engineer responsible reviewed that and signed off.

    Blaming politics is not something I would jump to in this case.

  • Presskh||

    So, you think faulty concrete reinforcement is to blame?

  • ||

    If I had to gues I would say one of the following, 1) design error 2)material failure (materials that did not for some reason meet the design standards of the job) 3) improper construction (failure to place necessary components correctly, resulting in improper distribution of loads) 4) placing a load which was not anticipated by the designer on the incomplete structure.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "Presumable the design engineer responsible reviewed that and signed off."

    Not necessarily. In the Hyatt Regency pedestrian bridge collapse, (Detailed in "To Engineer is Human", an excellent book.) the problem was that, while the design was technically sound, the procedures to assemble the bridge to the design were really inconvenient. So the people actually doing the assembly took some disastrous shortcuts without consulting the engineer.

    A similar thing was responsible for a bad accident while building the Zilwauke bridge. The state had to drop it's lawsuit against the engineering firm because they'd decided that not all of the reinforcing steel was necessary.

    It's not uncommon that, when you look into these sorts of things, you find somebody decided on their own authority to not follow the plans. I'm not saying that we engineers are perfect, but civil engineers in particular are usually very conservative in their use of margins of safety.

  • ||

    IIRC in the Hyatt Regency pedestrian bridge collapse, the consulting engineer was in fact consulted and approved the design change. It has been common in firms for which I have worked to assign assign such tasks to inexperienced juniors who are expected to bring anything questionable to the attention of the engineer in charge.Whether or not that's what they did I don't know but either way that change slipped through. It is possible that the report I remember wasn't accurate or perhaps my memory is faulty.

    The point I am trying to make is that every step of any engineering work is, or should be, subject to constant checks, double checks, back checks and reviews of of everything. This usually appears to the workers as unwarranted interference by pointy headed college boys who have never built anything but they are quite necessary. After all, one of the things those college boys learned in engineering school is some variation on the joke, "there is no partial credit for a bridge that falls down".

  • Brett Bellmore||

    That's not how I recall it, but my copy of the book is at home.

    Petroski did blame the engineer anyway, though, on the basis that the original design required installing multiple nuts that had to be started on the end of threaded rods, and screwed up them 50-60 feet. IOW, the design was such that nobody would have actually been willing to assemble it that way.

  • ||

    I recall the case well, because I remember seeing the detail and thinking wow, so that's what went wrong! It was sort of obvious that the erector's version put twice the load on the connection that the original design had. It was also obvious that the original design was impractical too.

    FWIW my solution to the problem would have involved some kind if threaded sleeve to connect the two rods as a unit. But they didn't ask me:)

    I spent 46 yrs in some kind of engineering or construction work before I retired in 2012. forut of those were as a construction engineer for a major steel fabricator and erector. I certainly don't have all the answers, but I do know the questions and where to look for the answers.

  • ||

    "forut of those" should read "for four of those"

  • Chumby||

    There is a documentary on the Hyatt skywalk disaster that showed the engineer had approved the design change request. IIRC there was also the issue of using two C-channels to create a box beam with the rods going through holes in the weld. And yes, submittals can go to junior staff that may not understand exactly what they are seeing. Field changes can also occur that result in problems. This is very unfortunate; it will be interesting to find out the reason(s).

  • Careless||

    It was the bridge. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Y_71L35CvM But the structural supports don't seem to have been installed...

  • Presskh||

    Jerryskids, seems like you might want the support cabling and towers in place before pouring the concrete deck. You know, to support the load or something like that. But what do I know - I've only been an aerospace engineer for 35 years.

  • Trainer||

    And how are those space bridge protects coming along?

  • ||

    Presskh, because this was a cable stayed, rather than a suspension bridge, the concrete deck actually has to get there before the cable stay to support it can be installed.

    For you to understand this I would have to make a full explanation of the difference between a cable stayed bridge and a suspension bridge and the construction methods and sequencing required. That would require more time and expertise than I actually have.

    What I do know, is that there was nothing wrong* with the construction sequencing in this case other that the fact that the superstructure element that everyone involved though was capable of spanning the width of Tamiami Blvd unsupported was, in fact, not.

    *everything about it, in fact, indicates to me that this construction method was a wonderfully elegant solution to a myriad of problems about this site, not the least of which was to cause a minimum of obsruction to traffic flow on Tamiami Blvd, a vital transportation connection in Miami-Dade County.

  • ||

    Sorry, Tamiami Trail not Tamiami Blvd.

  • Griffin3||

    It was Miami. I can not imagine that union labor, and the general level corruption involved in anything Miami did not have something to do with this.

    Bridge was probably supported by trailer anchors that were cut off above the auger, and shoved into the ground.

  • Eidde||

    More like FU Bridge, am I right?

  • IceTrey||

    Too soon.

  • Entelechy||

    In what nation was the 950 tons of steel made?

  • Sugarsail||

    That would be China or India I bet.

  • Hank Phillips||

    I dunno who made the steel, but the bridge is looking like it was made in U.S.-dominated Colombia. Search "Colombian bridge collapse"

  • ||

    The 950 tons would have been mostly concrete. The steel content would be reinforcing steel and prestressing cables.

  • GILMORE™||

    It needs alt-text

    "Most expensive Skate Ramp ever"

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    "A Bridge Too Far"

  • GILMORE™||

    (polite applause)

  • Page Turner||

    Build walls, not bridges.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Who's getting blamed for this, Trump or Obama?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Reagan.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The Gipper!

  • Chumby||

    Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this bridge.

  • Eidde||

    Jefferson Davis

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    NRA

  • Longtobefree||

    Bush (both of 'em)

  • ||

    Alt-right.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Putin.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    There was a whole chapter on it in Hillary Clinton's "What Happened" book.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    What is obviously needed is common sense bridge control.

    For the children.

  • Sugarsail||

    and we need to ban high-capacity bridges, they are clearly more lethal.

  • Jimothy||

    Time to start the Million Kids March. Just make sure no one marches across any bridges.

  • Rod Flash||

    Maybe one at a time.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    I would go with government infrastructure spending as the culprit, but that's just because of the 35W bridge collapse.

  • Longtobefree||

    No. It is clear that the root cause is granting special privileges to pedestrians.
    No more federal gas tax dollars to anything but roadways. No sidewalks, no landscaping, no benches, no rails to trails, no pedestrian bridges, no nothing but roadways.

  • Sugarsail||

    When lawyer politicians, accountants and bureaucrats run a nation instead of engineers...this is what you get.

  • StackOfCoins||

    Would America really be better under an meritocracy though? Who determines merit? The same guys who keep revising climate change models?

    I mean, they probably can't do worse than the clowns we have, but I'm not sure engineers and scientists are fit to run a country.

  • IceTrey||

    Philosophers should run the country.

  • DenverJ||

    +1 The Republic

  • StackOfCoins||

    2 fast 4 me

  • DenverJ||

    That's what she said.

  • StackOfCoins||

    What about a Philosopher-King?

  • Nardz||

    Random drawing of social security numbers

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    I'd be willing to be ruled in this country by whomever the electorate picks if we were operating within the most strict interpretation of our constitution.

    I think the federal government would be so small it wouldn't really matter much who was in Washington, but maybe I'm wrong...

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter were both engineers.

  • IceTrey||

    And look how that turned out.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    That's what I'm saying.

  • DenverJ||

    Hey, Hoover made some great vacuum cleaners.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    He sucked.

  • ||

    Was Carter ever an engineer?

    I don't mean to say the guy was dumb, but being so prolific in science-y type issues I know I've looked at this more than once and it's never clear (and may never be) whether he was engineer/scientist or engineer/scientist officer/manager. Yes, he liked science and took classes at a technology school but he graduated from the naval academy, always wanted to, and was, again from my understanding/recollection, more renowned as a naval officer than an actual student of engineering.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    He was a nuclear engineer.

  • BigT||

    Nucular engineer

  • Sebastian Cremmington||

    Nope. Carter has a BS from Annapolis which is obviously impressive but he wasn't a nuclear engineer...at least not by today's standards.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Nuclear engineer trained by Naval Reactors counts. Rickover may have helped lock us into bad reactor design choices, but his people learned their shit.

  • Sebastian Cremmington||

    I'm sorry, do you have the power to grant honorary degrees? I generally prefer doctors licensed by some body to perform surgery on me and I prefer actual nuclear engineers building nuclear reactors. Obviously nuclear engineering would have been a fledgling field in the time Carter was on active duty so I would like to hear it from an actual nuclear engineer if Carter would have been considered a nuclear engineer at the time.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    I'm sorry, do you think physics cares about the letters after your name?

  • Agammamon||

    He was a submarine officer though and was one of the earliest classes in the Navy's new nuclear power training program so he was completely qualifed to *run* and maintain one - which is what most nuclear engineers do - but not design them.

    So, the answer is 'sort of'. He had a ton of practice and classroom experience (and the raw intelligence) so he could have continued on to get his civilian cert and become an official one.

    Back on those days you did't take a course in 'nuclear engineering' because there wasn't one.

  • Sebastian Cremmington||

    So a "nuclear engineer" is like a railroad engineer?

  • Agammamon||

    In 1950? No, there was less formal instruction and certification for nuclear engineers then that there was for railroad engineers.

  • IceTrey||

    "Chosen by Admiral Hyman Rickover for the nuclear submarine program, he was assigned to Schenectady, New York, where he took graduate work at Union College in reactor technology and nuclear physics, and served as senior officer of the pre-commissioning crew of the Seawolf, the second nuclear submarine."

  • Sebastian Cremmington||

    You do realize Carter left the Navy 5 years before the first nuclear sub was commissioned??

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    So what? Is that when the engineering work starts? When the design and testing testing is finished and the product is complete and leaves the factory? When the bridge has been built and is ready for use?

    Everybody is pointing out that you're wrong and you just keep tilting at that windmill. Why do you have such a bug up your ass over this?

  • Sebastian Cremmington||

    I am impressed with Carter's academic record because Annapolis and GA Tech are two of our top universities but the Carter Center website doesn't even refer to him as a "nuclear engineer". It reminds me of the scene in King Kong when the grunt says, "you hear that boys, we're scientists!" Carter was involved in the nuclear sub program but he is not a "nuclear engineer".

  • Sebastian Cremmington||

    The Carter Center doesn't even refer to him as a "nuclear engineer"! You lose...now go have some fun sticking bugs up your ass or whatever it is you do when not making stuff up about Jimmy Carter.

  • Agammamon||

    Akchewally, he left 1 year before the first - the USS Nautilus - was commissioned.

    Which is kind of irrelevant as both nuclear officers and enlisted fully qualify on a live plant (ie, a real, operating, nuclear reactor) before they set foot on their first ship.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    He was a nuclear "engineer" in much the same sense the guy who runs a train is an "engineer".

    Not to put him down, he had more technical training than your average President, but he wasn't the sort of guy who you'd hire to design a nuclear power plant. Just to run it.

  • Sebastian Cremmington||

    Considering Carter graduated from Annapolis in 1946 and holds no other degree it would be impossible for him to be in fact a "nuclear engineer" just based on the timeline of the development of nuclear fission which was discovered in 1938. Obviously Carter has some association with nuclear submarines and I know some former Navy that should be classified as engineers but aren't in the civilian world...but I doubt Carter would pass muster as a "nuclear engineer" by any measure but an actual nuclear engineer with some knowledge of the history of nuclear engineering should probably weigh in on it.

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    Degreed engineer here of a different discipline. My degree was obtained in the late '70s/early '80s, just to put it in context.

    As in any other field, a college engineering degree consists of a bunch of common basics with the specifics of the specific field layered on top mostly in the last two years. The basics for an engineering degree when Carter did his would have probably consisted of a bunch of math (four semesters of calculus), chemistry (four semesters - two basic and two organic), a bunch of physics (basic, statics, dynamics, electricity, etc.), and various other things like design, drafting, probably some logic, and so on. Probably wouldn't have take any computer stuff like people in my era and later did. The nuke stuff would have been pretty basic based on the state of knowledge then vs today, but that's true of the old folks in any technical field.

    So, yeah, regardless of what you think of him as a President, as an engineer myself I'd call him an engineer. As in any field, the book learnin' is just the beginning, what you do after that determines how much expertise you develop. I don't know how much, if any, he practiced as an engineer following his time in the navy as opposed to peanut farming and politicking (and I'm not going to read his biography to find out), but he's definitely an engineer......

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Indeed, and given the knowledge (or lack thereof) of modern engineering grads when you actually stick them in a lab... Yeesh.

    According to wiki:

    He was sent to the Naval Reactors Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, D.C. for three month temporary duty... On December 12, 1952, an accident with the experimental NRX reactor at Atomic Energy of Canada's Chalk River Laboratories caused a partial meltdown resulting in millions of liters of radioactive water flooding the reactor building's basement and leaving the reactor's core ruined.[11] Carter was ordered to Chalk River to lead a U.S. maintenance crew that joined other American and Canadian service personnel to assist in the shutdown of the reactor.[12] The painstaking process required each team member to don protective gear and be lowered individually into the reactor for a few minutes at a time, limiting their exposure to radioactivity while they disassembled the crippled reactor

    Pretty sure you usually send your least-qualified, worst ppl in to an accident site.

  • Agammamon||

    Not if you want it done right. You're least qualified people aren't capable of getting anything with those short stay times.

    Sad fact is, is the least qualified guy probably caused the accident and the most qualified is going to die to fix it.

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    I took his response as being sarcastic. I dunno which way he meant it.

    But, yeah, when you've got a potential disaster you put your capable people on it.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    On a side note: This is why I avoid being under any bridge, interstate overpass, or other structure where I am there for more than a few seconds passing underneath.

    Anyone who remembers the Embarcadero Freeway in San Fran after the earthquake. I will not be the filling in a concrete sandwich.

  • IceTrey||

    Do you think the people in the crushed cars were having a picnic?

  • ||

    Damn you!

  • ||

    On a side note: This is why I avoid being under any bridge, interstate overpass, or other structure where I am there for more than a few seconds passing underneath.

    1. Even if the alternative is a tornado?
    2. I don't remember the incident in much more than 'an earthquake happened in California', I'm curious as to how the people on top of the freeway faired? Olives with toothpicks through them?

  • IceTrey||

    I live in OK and you are absolutely not supposed to be under an overpass during a tornado. It actually increases the wind speed and funnels debris right at you.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Do they still run tornado drills in the schools down there? I remember them from the 70s, living in Bethany, OK.

  • IceTrey||

    Yep and the sirens go off every Saturday at noon.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    I remember the night they went off at around 2 AM. I was 7.

  • DenverJ||

    I was living inn El Reno a few years ago. There was a tornado that flattened a high school gym in another party of the state. Killed many children. Big debate about building new schools with tornado shelters and where the money would come from.
    Incidentally, I was there when the biggest recorded tornado clipped the edge of El Reno. Took out my wife's dialysis clinic, and for the next two years we had to commute to OKC three times a week for her treatment.

  • ||

    I live in OK and you are absolutely not supposed to be under an overpass during a tornado. It actually increases the wind speed and funnels debris right at you.

    Yeah, I grew up in IN. Multiple generations of family, myself included, that were within 1 mi. of a tornado touch down. They used to tell us that a low ditch or a culvert was the preferred option over overpasses and that the most important thing was not to stay in your car because it could be lifted and thrown. Like a shallow ditch or culvert could never filled with water, washed out, and/or was generally designed to withstand a car dropping on it (Odds of being picked up in a car greater than, less than, or equal to having it dropped on you?). It didn't help much that the news would routinely find someone who'd survived a tornado under an overpass but the people who hid in a ditch or culvert? Not so much.

    I don't mean to say that the specific advice about overpasses was universally wrong, just that the conditionals in a tornado are too complex and the specific cases for added concern because of wind tunneling too unique. We used to joke that it was remain in your metal coffin, climb into a shallow grave, or hide in a metal coffin below ground. It comes across a bit like the 'duck and cover' recommendation to survive a nuclear blast; where, ultimately, the best advice is to be someplace else.

  • Mezzanine||

    What's your stance on railroad crossings?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    He frees tied-up women from them.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Why? Seems like a waste of time to just tie them up again.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Watching a woman tied to a railroad track struggle and squirm is the only way loveconstitution1789 can orgasm

  • Paper Wasp||

    Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.)

    I think I've found your problem. Everything this woman touches ends up being a disaster of cronyism and corruption.

  • FlameCCT||

    No kidding.
    Poor Ditsy WasAman Shitz.

  • ||

    In the long MSM tradition not letting a good news story go to waste if it can help push a tangentially related agenda...good job Reason! Way to make a pitch to enter the big leagues! Note though that we've revoked your license to bitch about the MSM turning every shooting into an excuse to lobby for gun control.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Why, are they lobbying for bridge control?

  • Eidde||

    Bridges collapsing? This is of concern to those of us in the troll community.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    *polite applause*

  • ||

    Well, yes. Trolls live under bridges.

  • Agammamon||

    Well, not that one.

  • Longtobefree||

    Not anymore

  • StackOfCoins||

    It's going to be such a delight watching everyone who lauded this bridge slow-walk back from their support and pretend they weren't really on board.

  • Trollificus||

    ""FIU and our surrounding community will benefit from this project for days to come."
    ~FIU CFO Kenneth Jessell

    fify

  • IceTrey||

    Looking a pics from Saturday it sure looks thin for the distance it was spanning.

  • Hicks||

    All the bridge installed collapsed.
    It was a suspension bridge design, but the suspension part was to be done after the the span was installed, so the span almost assuredly sagged, and appears to have fallen off one support.

    It seems stupid to install the bridge's suspension system weeks after installing the bridge span. Really stupid.

  • colorblindkid||

    Actually it was a self-supporting truss bridge that, if designed correctly, was more than robust enough to cross that span. Either the engineer fucked up or, more likely, the contractor who constructed the bridge didn't follow the drawings and detailed the rebar wrong.

  • ||

    No it was a cable stayed bridge (that is different from a suspension bridge) with truss supported deck. The erector presumably believed that the unloaded deck alone could span the eight lane street unsupported (probably because of the truss elements.) There are many reasons why the collapse occurred, one of which is that whoever did the calculations on the unstayed structures ability tho span the length without temporary support made a mistake. Sometimes it is that simple.

    Building the deck first is common for short spans like pedestrian bridges. The trick is to have temporary support while the cables are installed and tensioned. Presumable the design engineer responsible reviewed that and signed off.

    Blaming politics is not something I would jump to in this case.

  • ||

    The engineering firm that designed this bridge has an international reputation.

    They have been involved in some of the most important bridge project in the country.

  • ||

    One point is that this is most likely not a design error but a construction error. That is the completed bridge would have been completely OK.

  • No Longer Amused||

    Normally engineers are rather conscientious about things they design. However, they frequently get lied to, I mean, "given bad data" that affects their designs.

    I'd be interested in how far the finished bridge varied from the approved design.

  • ||

    The bridge was not finished, it was still under construction. It was, however supposed the be capable of panning the width of the road unsupported.

    I'd be interested in how far the finished bridge varied from the approved design.


    As closely controlled as most public projects are for this kind of thing, I would say, "Not far."

    It's not that hard for an investigation after the fact to determine if there was a deviation and it's not that hard to determine from the paper trail who was responsible for it. And if there is no paper trail, everyone is going to pay.

    If there is one single complaint that is heard from government contractors, it is how much the pointy headed college kids are looking over their shoulders and expecting them to fill out forms.

    That is one side of it. The other is, "If you have not complied with the plans and specifications you have not delivered what your customer ordered and agreed to pay for and your customer wants proof that you have delivered what you agreed to deliver." FWIW, private sectors owners want the same assurances so they hire the same kind of inspectors and monitors to ensure that they are getting what they paid for.

  • Chumby||

    The constructed product should equal the plans (withing stated tolerances within the specifications) unless approved change orders were issued, which then become part of the design.

  • Chumby||

    They reportedly designed the Penobscot Narrows Bridge in Maine. Last winter (two years ago?) the bridge had to be closed for a few days after large chunks of ice fell from the tubes. I believe there is an air conditioning system that blows warm dry air through the steel support tubes for corrosion protection. Warm tubes plus cold moist air equals ice formation.

  • ||

    the contractor who constructed the bridge didn't follow the drawings and detailed the rebar wrong.


    That is a possibility that I hadn't considered. Mostly because inspections in precast concrete facilities are so rigorous both by the contractor's employees and the owner's representative (usually a third party engineering firm specializing in construction inspection and not connected with the design engineer).

  • ||

    If you look closely at some of the photos you can see the blocks that the cable stays would have connected to.

  • IceTrey||

    They built it by the side of the road.

  • ||

    Maybe, but there would (or should) still have been have been extensive inspection.

  • ||

    They same standards and procedures are required to be followed in both permanent and temporary precast concrete facilities.

  • ||

    The standards for forming and casting the span in place would have been every bit as rigorous too. Except, that would have required closing Tamiami Trail for weeks which is something the local government would have found absolutely unacceptable.

  • Chumby||

    Precasting onsite is normal. The keys are rebar size, quantity, and location; proper concrete mixture; concrete placement; and curing conditions. Good inspection will verify the reinforcement as well as test the concrete onsite (temp, slump, air) and cast tedt cylinders to be broken in a lab to ensure it has the minimum strength.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Tragic as this is for the motorists who died, I would love to save this article to show all those non-anarchists who love to ask, "But without government, who would build the roads." I will laugh at them and ask them, "Other than government, who could build this worse?" I mean, this project lasted not even a single week before collapsing!

  • Árboles de la Barranca||

    ...but they meant well and were concerned with student safety.

  • Longtobefree||

    And it was for pedestrians, not evil cars.

  • Sebastian Cremmington||

    Related to TIGER was the high speed rail funding bill...guess what region received the largest amount of money?? Only the most important swing region in the country known as the I-4 corridor! What a coincidence!

    The money was rejected after Rick Scott won and then the private sector stepped in and decided to build a high speed train between Miami and Orlando that makes economic sense.

  • ||

    And yet new sections of I-4 reconstruction require the wide median to accommodate future high speed rail.

  • Sebastian Cremmington||

    Florida will have high speed rail a decade before California even while starting several years later because they aren't going for "true" HSR (and obviously because they don't have mountains). The problem with the Tampa to Orlando segment is that it was true HSR and wouldn't be compatible with the Miami to Orlando segment. It is counterintuitive but in the age of smart phones and laptops spending exponentially more for true HSR is not necessary because time is less important because people can be productive on the train. Plus SJ to SF will never be true HSR and so Cocoa Beach to Miami could never be true HSR anyway—so the cost is prohibitive and the time savings inconsequential.

    Bottom line—Obama and LaHood behaved irresponsibly and unethically and Rick Scott prevented a boondoggle.

  • Charles Easterly||

    "FIU and our surrounding community will benefit from this project for generations to come."

    Tragically, those who died will not be able to participate in any sort of future, nor reproduce and help create the future generation mentioned.

  • Sevo||

    'Shovel-Ready', right?

  • StackOfCoins||

    Nice one.

  • Sevo||

    Thanks.
    I really did read ALL the comments, since I figured someone had taken that. Nope.
    Step it UP campers! You can't rely on Sevo to pick up the pieces 2 hours after you guys get moving!

  • Flinch||

    Yes, it was. Mark Rosenberg is a fellow traveller (having been a member of SDS), so its no wonder he received some largesse from Obama. This type of enhancement usually comes from local or state coffers. This was supposed to be a simple contract, with a few donations going back to democrats, I am certain - nobody was supposed to die. They were set to expand the number of student loans processed, a few minds washed, and all would be well.

  • XM||

    Why do we have to build a bridge over a local road? I rarely cross bridges above freeways, but they make some sense.

  • Sebastian Cremmington||

    I would like to see the new maglev elevators used for situations like this because many people do refuse to use these pedestrian overpasses.

  • IceTrey||

    It's an 8 lane freeway were a student was killed last year.

  • ||

    It's not a freeway, it's an 8 lane urban arterial. But, yes, a student was killed last year. And the route is heavily travelled by students who have to got to residences on the other side.

  • Flinch||

    Build a bridge...because the landing from a trebuchet launch is really, really rough. But seriously - a pedestrian taking to a crosswalk on a 4 lane [or more] road in Florida is playing Russian roulette. The FIU bridge spanned 6/8 lanes, which makes it death wish territory. I'm not an engineer, but the roof design component looks like it adds more weight than it does structural strength at the time of collapse: angles and spacing just look odd to me when combined with it having no apparent connections at the far ends. Digging up other video elsewhere, I found the original drawing incorporated some kind of kingpost on one side with diagonal connections to be made to the incorporated roof structure, which would have held a lot of the load. As we see the scene of the wreckage, I can't spot this tower having been built at all. You would think this would have gone up at the same time the far supports were made. So... why would they set this span when they were not anywhere near prepared to add the supports? Sombody can't think. Look how the Golden Gate bridge was built: towers and supports were built first, then the span was set. The clowns soaking up federal money in Florida did it backwards.

  • ||

    Again, this is a cable stayed bridge, not a suspension bridge. Any comparisons to the Golden Gate bridge are plainly and simply irrelevant.

    The techniques and sequencing of operations for constructing this bridge have no equivalence to what was done at the Golden Gate.

    The roof structure you refer to was an integral part of why everyone involved thought that this span would be self supporting over the width of Tamiami Trail.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Since nobody else asked: "Who is John Galt?"

  • DenverJ||

    A Scottish political novelist.

  • DajjaI||

    First the gays, then the Jews, and now the trolls. I'm starting to take this personally, Florida.

  • Crusty Juggler||

  • DenverJ||

    Would

  • SIV||

    I saw twitter thinks he deserved it.

  • No Longer Amused||

    As an engineer I can state right now the eventual source of the problem will be a combination of the following:

    1) Inferior design specifications
    2) Material substitutions
    3) Construction shortcuts
    4) Corrupt inspectors
    5) Politicians

  • FlameCCT||

    Most likely 1 or 3. How does anyone install a span that length without any temporary support structure?

  • ||

    The design intent appears to have been that the concrete deck structure would to be self supporting for the construction loads that would be imposed during the construction of the towers and the installation of the cables stays.

    There are many reasons why it might have failed in this. Among them: 1) design error 2)material failure (materials that did not for some reason meet the design standards of the job) 3) improper construction (failure to place necessary components correctly, resulting in improper distribution of loads) 4) placing a load which was not anticipated by the designer on the incomplete structure.

  • Flinch||

    Don't forget falsified ISO 9001 certs. The Chinese are pro's at copying everything, except tempering metals correctly.

  • ||

    I'm sure Trumpistas and Bernie Bros would love to get evidence that the rebar and pretensioning cables were substandard steel.

    Concrete too. Mexican concrete has replaced formerly reliable Australian concrete here.

  • ||

    here in Florida, that is.

  • Chumby||

    Do projects in Florida test at delivery and make cylinders?

  • Flinch||

    Politicians pretty much covers it. Knowing this was a federal money contract, affirmative action is in play and after adding in the Obama factor, some jobs were held where the individuals were absolutely not qualified. The only question is how many, and what was the severity of public endangerment based on their postions inside the project. Engineers have a reasonable assumption that blueprints will be read and material specifications followed, because that's where the bid starts. Ignorance will not be believed in court when the wrongful death lawsuits are heard.

  • unperson||

    only one comment mentioning affirmative action hiring here...figgers...
    *closes tab*

  • ||

    So, this is an agency founded during Obama's administration? Interesting that.

    When will be the walkout?

    Where are all the stupid celebrities and kids screaming for heads?

  • منتديات الصقع||

  • libertynugget||

    The current trend seems to be to protest stuff.
    I'm staging a walkout from work today at 5pm and refusing to return until Monday morning.

    We clearly need some common sense bridge control.

  • Al Bendova||

    Hopefully we can pin this disaster on Trump/Russian collusion very soon, so that we might move on quickly to other more pressing matters.

  • Flinch||

    Tough month to be a Floridian: federal programs are mowing down citizens left and right. If I could hazard a guess as to problems, it would be in the form of a question: how long a window exists for tensioning after a concrete pour, and what is the mnimum wait time before tensioning? Bridges are their own beast: you can't go by simple torque settings in a nice neat procedure like building an engine. You have no other option but stretch, which brings materials certifications into view. Percentage of stretch available hinges entirely on quality of materials, and I wonder... how much Chinesium was involved? I also note the speed with which freeway sections got repaired and shake my head that it took 5 years to produce this disaster. Do the feds learn anyting from disasters at all?

  • Flinch||

    ...glasses, man. Refer to Northridge earthquake regarding freeway repair speeds mentioned.

  • Pat001||

    Where were the inspectors? I can't repave my driveway or even replace a water heater without a building permit and a city inspector to sign off before and after.

  • MoreFreedom||

    Reason gives us the perspective the establishment won't. Thank you Reason!

  • Robert||

    What kind of ridculousness was a ped bridge there, a few ft. from a x-walk at an intersection? It's not like they were going to eliminate a grade x-ing there unless they were closing the intersecting st.

  • ||

    It was a Women's Studies bridge.

  • ||

    Have none of you read the original article or any of the previous comments on this thread?

  • Fk_Censorship||

    I read that it was designed by women, who wanted to make it look pretty.
    Leonor Flores, FIU alumna, and MCM project exec said (before the tragedy, of course): "It's very important for me as a woman and an engineer to be able to promote that to my daughter because I think women have a different perspective. We're able to put in an artistic touch and we're able to build too."

  • Enemy of the State||

    Obviously, the answer is funding should have been larger...

  • Liberty Lover||

    Please add: with more government oversight.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Still reminds me of a novel... "Are you seeking to know what is wrong with the world? All the disasters that have wrecked your world, came from your leaders´ attempt to evade the fact that A is A."

  • Johnimo||

    Still reminds me of a novel ...? "Atlas Frugged," is that it? Dagney Swaggert and Francisco de Bologna? Did I guess right?

  • Johnimo||

    I'm pretty certain that, had not this free money been available for this project, FIU would've chosen some simple, steel beams to span the highway. You know, that ugly iron grating for the foot path over the multi-lane crossing that every other pedestrian overpass utilizes? They'd all be walking back and forth right now, instead of lying buried and dead under the rubble.

  • Trollificus||

    "It's very important for me as a woman and an engineer to be able to promote that to my daughter because I think women have a different perspective. We're able to put in an artistic touch and we're able to build too."
    ~Lenore Flores, MCM project exec

    And now you'll get to promote to your daughter that "inclusion" is more important than (other) people's lives. Not that I think any "artistic touch" caused this failure or anything, but if the women's "different perspective" she references in any way compromises of prioritizes anything over secure construction, it needs to be nipped, hard, right in the bud.

  • MaGovSmAga||

    Let's hope that Project Executive Flores makes it right with her daughter and with the world and confesses to her actual role in this disaster and renounces any affiliation with the practice of attacking ability.

  • Ein Vogel-frei||

    what you get when you hand the Democrats $Trillion for Pork Barrel "Shovel Ready" special interest spending.

  • Trollificus||

    Oooooh! *light bulb goes on*

    The "shovel-ready" part is for the GRAVES! It all makes sense now...

  • James Pollock||

    Complaining that a program is "awarding money based on politics rather than merit" is often another way of saying "my political faction didn't win."

    This particular project had a flaw... whether in design, materials, or construction method I don't know, but obviously at least one of those was flawed. I suspect that when we finally get an answer, it will turn out that the flaw existed because someone was greedy or lazy, neither of which are recent additions to human canon. But it's also possible that someone was just rushed; pushed to meet an arbitrary deadline by someone else. Investigation first, THEN howling mob. (Yes, I realize that this is not general practice on the Internet.)

  • MaGovSmAga||

    Those who want bridges built by the competent don't give a damn about political factions. Only those who get their cash by government favor care about such things. The efficacious are now forced to take time from their work to regain what the Founding Father's established: justice.

  • Trollificus||

    Sadly, Mr. Pollock, with the contrivance of the MSM, the "investigation" is often an exercise in sophisticated ass-covering and blame-placement. (Though you are correct in stating that an internet mob is also unlikely to yield an accurate assessment)

    But with a grant process that is MORE political than not, the first post-disaster order of business is making sure culpability does not reach too high up the food chain (money chain?) and secondarily, at best, to give an accurate account of what actually happened.

  • Radioactive||

    TIGER, which Reason has covered here, here and here, was created as an economic stimulus measure under President Barack Obama ...I knew Obama wanted to squish white folks!!!

  • 2whlrider||

    Here are some preliminary investigations results for the failure:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBDDQLcp6iI&t=2s
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxQJj8D_FE0

  • vek||

    Haven't looked deeply into it, but saw in passing that this project was basically an SJW bridge! They used all female engineers, and all female builders or some such nonsense... And it just went POOF. Sounds about right if that is all accurate... Anytime you don't hire the people for their actual qualifications, versus the junk in their pants or the color of their skin, you're going to get worse results than you would have otherwise.

  • MaGovSmAga||

    Yes, a dead-fall killing machine designed 250 years ago by the philosophers of unreason.

  • Trollificus||

    Given the nature of the grant program, 2 things are certain: A) Errors were made in WHO the contracts were assigned to (no problem with set-asides or "women in engineering" preferences, but they don't go with the DESERVING women or PoCs) and B) whoever made those costly decisions will NOT be held accountable. Oh, they'll find some taxpayer money to pay off the victims but the people responsible are too well-connected to have to pay.

    I make this prediction with as much confidence as saying a dropped rock will fall downward.

  • CE||

    Maybe try your experimental bridge building concepts in a deserted place first.

  • MaGovSmAga||

    I call for an immediate halt to the Tiger Grant program, a public listing (WSJ) of all TIGER grant construction projects, and a thorough review of their engineering by impartial 3rd party firms who do not accept government financing or control.

  • MaGovSmAga||

    The greatest thinker of our time wrote a book about the role of ideas in the making of character. This novel happened to use architecture as the medium of her story. In it she shows how morality, bad or good, makes groveling cowards or soaring heroes of men. The philosopher is Ayn Rand and the novel is The Fountainhead. If you haven't read it, there could be no better time.

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