Monday, October 15, 2018
Transportation

Company that designed the failed FIU bridge also designed Skyway, part of Selmon

TAMPA — The company that designed the pedestrian bridge that collapsed Thursday at Florida International University near Miami also created Tampa Bay’s iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge and the elevated express lanes of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.

FIGG Bridge Design features both Tampa Bay projects in its online portfolio. The Skyway was constructed in 1988 to replace an older bridge destroyed by a 1980 cargo ship collision.

The company has designed bridges nationwide and in several other countries. The Skyway ranks among its most well-known achievements.

Multiple people were killed Thursday when a bridge collapsed while under construction over a busy intersection at FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique campus. Touted as an "instant bridge," the 950-ton pedestrian walkway underwent a rapid installation Saturday as part of a project that was to be completed in 2019, according to reports. The installation took months of preparation before the span was assembled between two support structures.

FIGG partnered in the project with MCM Construction, a Miami-based contractor. The project cost $14.2 million.

READ MORE:FIU pedestrian bridge collapses days after installation; police say multiple deaths, cars trapped

FIGG Bridge Design is headquartered in Tallahassee, where it started in 1978. Its founder, Eugene Figg, a structural engineer, partnered with French engineer Jean Muller to design bridges based on a European system that had been used to quickly replace those destroyed in war.

Figg became the firm’s sole owner in 1988. He died in 2002. His daughter, Linda Figg, is now CEO of the company. Its worldwide construction values top $14 billion.

A statement issued Thursday said company officials were "stunned" at news of the collapse and vowed to cooperate with subsequent investigations.

"In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before," the company’s statement said. "Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved."

FIGG projects also include the raised express lanes of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, which were completed in 2006 as an extension to alleviate traffic congestion on the main expressway.

In 2004, while the Selmon Expressway project was underway, a concrete pier collapsed, causing work to stop while safety tests and reconstruction were performed. The mishap cost $120 million. FIGG was one of two engineering firms that were sued by the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority after the accident. The company eventually agreed to a settlement of $750,000.

Other major projects FIGG has designed include the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys and the replacement for the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, after the original collapsed in 2007.

In 2012, part of a FIGG bridge in Virginia fell apart while it was under construction, according to the Virginian-Pilot. A 90-ton concrete portion of the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge fell 40 feet onto railroad tracks, the newspaper reported. Four workers suffered minor injuries. FIGG was fined $28,000 by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, which found the company violated safety rules.

Times senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report, which also includes information from the Miami Herald.

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