CROSS Safety Alert
Lessons learned from the 2018 Florida bridge collapse during construction
This was a bridge of an unusual design and was being constructed in an unusual manner. The main 53m pre-stressed pre-cast concrete span truss was in position when cracks appeared at a node and over a period of almost three weeks they visibly worsened until collapse occurred.
Note: this Safety Alert was published by SCOSS (Standing Committee on Structural Safety). Since March 2021, SCOSS is integrated under the name Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures (CROSS).
Who should read this?
Infrastructure owners, designers, civil and structural engineers, contractors, checkers and supervisors.
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I would suggest an additional measure, one related to construction activities above live traffic or other public realm, is added to SCOSS recommendations. An outright ban of construction activities above physically unprotected live traffic or at least a requirement to stop traffic while carrying out critical construction activities (lifting, stressing or de-stressing, jacking, de-propping, or alike) should, in my opinion, be considered for adoption by authorities. In case of the 2018 Florida Bridge collapse, this would certainly limit the tragedy in that innocent vehicle occupants’ lives and limbs would have been spared.
In my view, the root cause of the collapse may have been defective design.
While analysing the procedural errors is very instructive, so should be the analysis of the design, starting with a presentation of the drawings and instructions.
I understand that drawings are often not easy to obtain, but studying them may enable designers to learn from the experiences of others.