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Washington bridges built with same technique as collapsed Florida bridge

Workers stand next to a section of a collapsed pedestrian bridge, March 16 near Florida International University. The new pedestrian bridge that was under construction collapsed onto a busy Miami highway Thursday afternoon, crushing vehicles beneath massive slabs of concrete and steel, killing and injuring several people, authorities said. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The pedestrian bridge that collapsed at Florida International University was prefabricated nearby then moved into place above a roadway. The whole process is called Accelerated Bridge Construction.

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The technique is hardly novel. In 2003, the Washington Department of Transportation moved the pre-built expansion of Bellevue’s Northeast Eighth over I-405 into place. The highway was closed for a weekend instead of the 15 months it would have taken to construct the bridge in the conventional manner.

“The big thing is speed, what we’re trying to do is to be able to construct our projects and get the facility open to the public as quickly as possible,” State Bridge Engineer Mark Gaines said.

He was involved when the I-5 Bridge over the Skagit River was quickly replaced using accelerated bridge construction techniques.

“We do not sacrifice safety. We are very careful about that. We work very collaboratively with the contractor to make sure any safety issue is addressed very quickly. Typically, we do an inspection on our projects every two years.”

Gaines doesn’t know what went wrong in Florida. But we asked him about the risk of a similar tragedy in our state.

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“From my perspective the risk is very low. Again, we’re not compromising safety at all when we use accelerated bridge construction. We’re making sure that it meets all the same safety standards we would have if we were building the bridge in place.”

The companies involved in leading the Florida bridge construction project have apparently not done any projects for the Washington Department of Transportation.

Florida International University maintains a research center for Accelerated Bridge Construction.

Click here for the center’s research on the Bellevue Northeast Eighth overpass.

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