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New FIU bridge on the horizon after deadly 2018 collapse

FIU bridge
Posted at 3:34 PM, May 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-08 15:34:00-04

MIAMI, Fla. — It's been more than five years since the deadly collapse of the Florida International University pedestrian bridge. 

Now, The Florida Department of Transportation has unveiled new plans to create a new bridge.  

Orlando and Gina Duran lost their daughter Alexa during the FIU bridge collapse on March 15, 2018.  

At the time, Orlando was in London while Gina was keeping updated with the bridge’s construction.  

She said she knew those working on the bridge had found cracks in the structure. Her daughter, a freshman studying political science, was waiting at a traffic light the day repairs were being made.

“I spoke to her at 1:47, and she said, 'Mommy, I’m running late. I will see you in a little bit,” Gina said. “And she said, 'Okay, I love you,' and at 1:47, she hung up. And at 1:47, that bridge came down.”  

The collapse killed six people, including Alexa.

Federal transportation investigators had cited design flaws as the likely reason for the failure and that contractors should have never been conducting repairs while traffic on the busy eighth street continued.  

“At every moment, the issue was safety. Whatever you do, should this bridge collapse, it would not be an issue if the road is closed,” shared Orlando. “You can always do another bridge. You cannot bring lives again.”  

But the Florida Department of Transportation promises this time will be different.

For one, the original bridge was constructed of pure cement. According to FDOT, this new design will be made of traditional steel girders.

The bridge will also be “constructed using conventional methods done in phases,” as opposed to the "accelerated construction" done previously.  

The agency also emphasized that "road closures and detours will be implemented as needed during construction.”  

With that all being said, Alexa's family wants safety to be at the forefront of this process.  

“It could be metal, it could cement, it could be made of paper, but the main point of this construction is so this doesn’t happen again," Orlando said. "The streets should be closed. Nobody should be walking under or over or anything. If something is wrong with the bridge, go check it out, don’t wait until the bridge falls again. The material doesn’t matter. It’s the safeness.”  

In this new project, with design set to be completed in July of this year, FDOT will manage the project’s design and construction while FIU and the City of Sweetwater remain local partners.  

Once construction is completed, FIU will own, maintain and operate the pedestrian bridge.

The new crosswalk will feature USB charging stations, Wi-Fi and security cameras.

The whole project costs roughly $18 million. According to FDOT, construction is set to begin in early 2024 and last two years.  

The Durans said they have been asked to give their input on plans by FDOT, which they hope to continue doing.

Orlando said they want to ensure that what happened to their little girl doesn’t happen again.

“All we want from our point of view is that the roads are closed during work. So, if they are saying there will be detours,” Gina added, “and closures at every phase is a must.”  

“It’s a requirement and I think if they follow that, I think we will be okay," Orlando said.

Florida 24 did reach out to both FIU and the City of Sweetwater about the plans for the bridge. The City of Sweetwater referred Florida 24 to FDOT.

FIU has not responded to multiple requests.