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FIU bridge that collapsed had key design mistake, experts say.

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MiamiHerald / It started as an idea for a footbridge to get college students safely over the busy Tamiami Trail.

But fueled by millions of dollars in available federal stimulus grants, Florida International University’s doomed pedestrian bridge morphed into something far more ambitious: A gleaming testament to FIU’s lofty institutional aspirations and the linchpin in a grand plan to create a true college town in the neighboring working-class suburb of Sweetwater.

As FIU’s ambitions grew, the need to shape a uniquely memorable bridge drove key engineering decisions, resulting in a striking but unorthodox concrete structure. But the design hid a fatal flaw that its designers and reviewers failed to recognize, according to experts who have examined plans and mathematical calculations for the project.

The unconventional placement of diagonal supports in an uneven zig-zag pattern along the bridge produced a complex structural web with a glaring weakness at a key connection point, apparently overlooked by designers at FIGG Bridge Group, say three independent structural engineers who reviewed nearly 2,000 pages of calculations for the bridge at the Miami Herald’s request.

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