MIAMI (CBSMiami) – When the bridge collapsed at Florida International University, it captured the world’s attention. The 950-ton concrete bridge, the equivalent of 450 cars, came crashing down killing six people.
Just six months earlier another bridge partially collapsed. Local media covered it, but you likely didn’t hear about it. It involved a busy stretch of US-1 in North Palm Beach. A 20-foot chunk of the sidewalk suddenly broke off into the Earman River below. No one was hurt.
Florida’s Department of Transportation shut down a traffic lane in both directions and began inspecting. The bridge, a Sonovoid bridge, was originally designed in 1956 and had been reconstructed 15 years ago. A bridge that new should not be crumbling.
With a closer look, engineers had some corroding and cracking. But more importantly, the Sonovoid bridge had major faults in its design. Engineers began emergency inspections of all Sonovoid bridges across the state. Broward has a couple, but Miami-Dade has 14.
Dennis Fernandez is with Miami-Dade’s Department of Transportation and Public Works. He didn’t like what he saw. “We feel that there could be some rotation. We look at all of them and some of them have rotation. You cannot see it, but we feel that it could present an issue,” he said.
After inspecting all 14 bridges the decision was made to retrofit all of them. “We decided that any bridge that has an overhang greater than one foot, can be a concern. It’s not right now but it could be later on,” Fernandez explained.
The problem at hand does not look like much, but it has to do with the gap between the sidewalk and bridge supports.
On all the bridges in question, the pedestrian sidewalks are just hanging over the edge. When they were designed 50 years ago, it may have not been a problem. But years without any support, the potential for these sidewalks to break off is real. “Definitely a very aggressive corrosive environment. Corrosion destroys our structures.” Fernandez said.
Rather than wait to see if the Earman river bridge collapse was isolated, Miami-Dade and Broward are not taking chances. Broward is fast-tracking repairs of two bridges this year. Miami-Dade has plans to fix all 14 of their Sonovoid bridges.
Five bridges will be repaired this fall. The fix is actually very simple. It involves filling the gap between the support and the sidewalk.
Fernandez stresses there is nothing to worry about. “I feel confident. It’s my responsibility to make sure of the safety of the public, not only pedestrians or vehicles,” Fernandez said. “We would not allow this to be open to traffic or pedestrians if it was unsafe.”
Here is a list of the Sonovoid bridges slated for repair:
-Oakland Park Blvd at the C13 Canal
-Stirling at C10 Canal
Miami Dade County:
-NW 22nd Avenue and Biscayne Canal C-8
-NW 95th Street and Little River Canal (Fall 2018 repair)
-SW 99th Avenue and Snapper Creek Canal (Fall 2018 repair)
-NW 22nd Ave. and Little River Canal (C7) (Fall 2018 repair)
-SW 127th Ave. and Black Creek Canal C-1W (Fall 2018 repair)
-NW 67th Avenue and Biscayne Canal (C-8)
-SW 144th Street and Canal C-100-A
-Caribbean Blvd. and Bel Aire Canal C-1-N (Fall 2018 repair)
-SW 97th AVENUE and BLACK CREEK CANAL
-SW 197th Avenue and Canal C-102
-SW 256th Street and Canal C-102
-SW 107th Avenue and Canal C-102
-SW 127th Avenue and CANAL C-103
-SW 117th Avenue and CANAL C-103