FIU Bridge Engineering Consultant Was Not Qualified According to NTSB

Gerard Albert III and Joshua Ceballos/PantherNOW Staff

An engineering company contracted to independently review the FIU bridge was never qualified to do so, according to documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Louis Berger, one of two engineering firms tapped review the design of the bridge before it ultimately fell on Thursday, March 15 and killed five, was incorrectly listed on the Florida Department of Transportation website as a qualified firm to inspect a complex bridge project.

The NTSB released nearly 6,300 pages of documents this Tuesday from their ongoing investigation of the collapse, including a factual report by their chief investigator which outlines the issue with Berger’s qualification.

“Neither Louis Berger U.S. Inc,. nor its predecessor, Louis Berger Group, Inc., was ever qualified… and the firm did not receive a prequalification letter for work during this period,” stated the report.

An email from FDOT to Louis Berger’s associate vice president in 2013 states that the firm was not qualified because its employees did not have sufficient experience in reviewing a project of this nature and complexity. Nevertheless, they were listed on a list of qualified engineers.

Also released was a letter from Will Watts, chief engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation, wrote that FIU and its contractor were responsible for asking the state to close Tamiami Trail — but never did.

The letter was sent to federal investigators at NTSB and stated the road should have been “completely closed to traffic if the contractor was undertaking activities that posed a risk to the public,” Watts wrote.

FDOT has always downplayed their role in the project.

At the time of the collapse, then-Gov. Rick Scott was engaged in a competitive race for a Senate seat with Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. As governor, Scott had oversight of FDOT.

“It’s not an FDOT project. It’s an FIU project,” Scott said to reporters during a news conference at the University the night the bridge fell.

But reporting by the Miami Herald and NBC6 showed that FDOT engineers and consultants were involved in frequent meetings with the FIU team, giving suggestions on everything from design calculations to the proper concrete mix.

FIU is not commenting on the report, but Media Relations released this statement: “Party members are prohibited from speaking publicly during the course of an NTSB investigation on matters not disclosed by the NTSB. As there may be matters that the NTSB has not disclosed, FIU, out of respect for the NTSB process, will not comment at this time.”

A final investigation report is expected to be released October 22.

1 Comment on "FIU Bridge Engineering Consultant Was Not Qualified According to NTSB"

  1. Scary who some of our elected officials are. We should do away with political parties.

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