DUELING COLUMN: Let’s Build the FIU Bridge and Move Forward

Photo by FIU Flickr

Denitsa Raichkova/Contributing Writer

Building bridges is the theme of 2021. This statement might not hold true in the political and social arenas. It can, however, be taken literally – build the FIU bridge on Southwest 8th Street.

On March 15, 2018, the 174-foot-bridge, designed to connect Florida International University and the city of Sweetwater, collapsed. Still under construction, the collapsing bridge crushed eight vehicles and resulted in the death of six people, injuring 10 more. FIU student Alexa Druna, 18, was among the casualties. Federal investigations determined the probable cause of the incident was a flaw in the design. Its unconventional concrete zig-zag structure produced a web with weak connecting key points.

After almost three years, FIU has decided to rebuild the pedestrian bridge. Florida Department of Transportation, (FDOT), will oversee the construction. The announcement has been met with criticism for being “too soon” or “too insensitive”. The tragedy was truly sorrowful for the FIU community and all parties involved. Victims of the collapse will forever be remembered. However, we have to put our emotions aside and focus on the facts – FIU needs the bridge.

The Modesto A. Maidique Campus of FIU is located on the south side of S.R. 90/SW 8 Street just west of SW 107 Avenue. Residential buildings are located in the city of Sweetwater, on the north side of the road. Crossing the busy road is a necessity for students living in the dorms when they head to the MMC campus to attend classes. In 2017, an FIU student was struck and killed while crossing the road. The bridge was designed to safeguard pedestrian safety. Therefore, never replacing the bridge puts students in danger when walking between classrooms and residential towers. A new properly built bridge will protect our community and ensure no more lives are lost.

In addition, the FDOT will manage the construction and will incorporate recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). A thorough inspection and the involvement of government actors will guarantee that the new bridge will be safer. Any design flaws will be discovered and corrected before construction has begun. The case of the first bridge was largely different. Reports have shown that the Florida Department of Transportation had given FIU full certification as a local agency, even though the university had no professional engineers. Due to lack of oversight, the fatal design flaw of the first bridge was not discovered. Having professional engineers involved and experts from the FDOT overseeing the new construction makes a convincing promise that this time around things will be different. 

Moreover, FIU officials have pressed for a new bridge project. Justification is again the safety of both pedestrians and students, as well as various crashes involving people trying to cross SW 8th Street on foot. Last week, FIU’s board of trustees approved the transfer of $9.1 million to the FDOT. To add, Governor Ron DeSantis has expressed his support for moving forward with the new bridge project. The university and government officials have reached a consensus that a bridge is beneficial to the community. 

It is unclear why some members of the FIU community find the act controversial. The ability to learn from past mistakes and improve future responses is the motor that drives society forward. Yes, the collapse was a tragedy. However, building a new bridge, while taking safety precautions and avoiding past mistakes, is a reasonable option to manage the connection between the MMC campus and the residential areas in Sweetwater. We must take the crumbles of the old bridge and remake a better one. This time, we will build better!

The construction of the new bridge is expected to take two years. Soon, in the place of a deadly bridge collapse, we will see a new, improved structure that brings safety and pride to the FIU community. 

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Photo by FIU Flickr

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