The company that designed the bridge near FIU that collapsed and the construction company that built the stricken pedestrian overpass are major players in Florida construction projects.
Munilla Construction Management is the Miami company building the bridge. It was being built to connect the FIU campus with the city of Sweetwater to avoid people having to cross the busy street. The project was called a first-of-its-kind for using what’s called a self-cleaning concrete where the compound used in it whitens in the sun.
MCM is involved in hundreds of projects in Florida and across the world. Other local projects include the $128 million expansion at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and the Pembroke Road bridge that serves as an overpass for Interstate 75.
The company is also in the bidding process to build a new Interstate 395 bridge in downtown Miami.
Several Dead in FIU Bridge Collapse
Since 2008, Munilla Construction Management has received more than $767 million from Miami Dade County, according to the county’s online check register.
The company also has received more than $133 million in U.S. Department of Defense contracts, including building a U.S. Navy school on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The bridge was designed by FIGG Bridge Engineers in Tallahassee, which designed two iconic Florida landmarks: the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay and the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys.
FIGG also designed the replacement for a bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed in 2007 and left 13 people dead and 145 others injured. The bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis was designed by Sverdrup & Parcel.
The companies have both released statements expressing sympathy over the incident as authorities work to determine the cause of the collapse.
"Our family's thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy," MCM wrote. "MCM is a family business and we are all devastated and doing everything we can to assist. We will conduct a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong and will cooperate with investigators on scene in every way."
“We are stunned by today’s tragic collapse of a pedestrian bridge that was under construction," FIGG wrote. "Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved.”
MCM built the bridge by using a method called Accelerated Bridge Construction in which the bridge itself was built on-site but to the side of the street to make the process faster and safer. Once the bridge was built nearby, it was lifted with heavy machinery and placed on top of support beams over the street.
The company also used titanium dioxide in its concrete blend, which is largely used for aesthetic purposes. The bridge was built to withstand a category 5 hurricane.
Last week, a Transportation Security Administration employee filed a lawsuit accusing the company of "shoddy work" after MCM allegedly placed a makeshift bridge at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport that collapsed under his weight. Jose Perez said in court documents he sustained significant injuries in the October 2016 incident.
The lawsuit alleges that MCM "failed to utilize reasonable care in the design, planning, inspection and maintenance" of the make-shift bridge, adding it employed "incompetent, inexperienced, unskilled, or careless employees." The makeshift bridge was inside a construction site not accessible to the general public, according to the lawsuit.
In a statement, MCM said the incident is being mischaracterized and that the "makeshift bridge" referenced in the lawsuit was a piece of plywood.
"We want to make it clear that there is no bridge, or temporary bridge, at this project," MCM wrote. "This was simply a trip and fall accident that occurred on the ground floor involving a piece of plywood that was covering a sidewalk under construction."
CORRECTION (March 15, 9:08 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the designer of a bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed in 2007. The bridge was designed by Sverdrup & Parcel.