Deck of new Sarah Mildred Long Bridge designed by same firm as bridge that collapsed in Miami
By KEVIN LANDRIGAN
New Hampshire Union Leader
March 17. 2018 9:23AM
(KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)
Maine officials said they expect the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge to be opened by March 23, 2018.
— State transportation officials said the tragic collapse of the pedestrian bridge in Miami was “unrelated” to the same engineering firm’s design of the new deck for the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge that links Portsmouth with Kittery, Maine.
FIGG Bridge Group of Tallahassee, Fla., was the engineer for both projects as well as the designer of the high span, Leonard Zakim Bridge on Interstate 93 in Boston.
“The NHDOT is aware of the tragic collapse of the Pedestrian Bridge in Miami, Florida, and our condolences go out to the families involved,” said Bill Boynton, public information officer for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.
Recovery workers were still searching the wreckage for bodies Friday a day after the pedestrian bridge under construction near Florida International University suddenly fell onto a busy street, killing at least six.
“Our deepest sympathies are with all those affected by this accident,” FIGG officials said in a statement after the incident Thursday.
“We will fully cooperate with every appropriate authority in reviewing what happened and why. In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before. Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved.”
But in 2012, FIGG Bridge Engineers was fined $28,000 by Virginia authorities after a 90-ton section of the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge collapsed in Chesapeake during construction, the Virginia Pilot-Ledger reported at the time. Four workers had minor injuries.
According to citations following the Jordan Bridge mishap, the company modified a steel beam without getting permission from the manufacturer.
The Florida pedestrian bridge was built with accelerated bridge construction (ABC), a new design and construction technique aimed at reducing how much time bridge work disrupts traffic.
“Both Maine DOT and NH DOT feel the issues surrounding the pedestrian bridge collapse in Florida are unrelated to the SML bridge,” Boyton added. “Both Maine and NH DOTs are confident that the design for the SML was accomplished in accordance with national standards and construction has been thoroughly inspected to ensure the bridge’s safety.”
The Maine DOT is the lead agency for the $164 million Sarah Mildred Long Bridge project here to replace a span that was closed in August 2016 after the lift span got stuck in the open position. Since its closure, the 15,000 daily vehicles that used it have been detoured onto Interstate 954.
Officials in both states have grown impatient with the planned opening of this project that contractor Cianbro Corp. has put off until May.
The bridge that carried cars overhead and railroad cars underneath it was originally scheduled to open on Sept. 1. The most recent schedule projects a May 10 opening for cars and May 17 for rail.
But Maine officials have informed Cianbro that they expect the bridge to be opened by March 23.
Last month, Maine officials told the Union Leader speculation the bridge was unsafe or had mechanical issues were mistaken.
The bridge was tested in January under many scenarios and New Hampshire employees have already been trained on operating the new lift system.
Much of the remaining work is either aesthetic or weather-dependent, such as weatherproofing, painting and patching concrete, Maine officials said.
“Maine and New Hampshire are now evaluating all options for opening the bridge sooner than what was indicated on Cianbro’s most recent schedule,” said Maine DOT spokesman Ted Talbot.firstname.lastname@example.org