TDOT's Chief Engineer Weighs In On Deadly Bridge Collapse In Florida

Posted at 4:56 PM, Mar 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-16 18:46:41-04

It was supposed to enhance safety while, at the same time, accelerating construction to minimize the impact on street traffic. However, months before it was scheduled to open, a pedestrian bridge in Florida collapsed, killing at least six people and injuring several others.

“Was it a design issue? Was it a construction issue?” asked Paul Degges.

Degges is the chief engineer with the Tennessee Department of Transportation. “We started looking into it. I actually talked to my structure division director a little bit about it. He had actually been in a presentation on this particular bridge.”

It may be some time before the National Transportation Safety Board releases its findings. In the meantime, Degges wants to assure Tennesseans the bridges in this state, to the best of his knowledge, are safe. “Our role as engineers in Tennessee is to make sure we know what a bridge can carry,” said Degges.

He did say, however, that accelerated construction is something this state does practice, for example the Fast Fix 8 projects. “There’s an expectation from the public that we get in and do things in a hurry,” Degges explained.

However, while the technique on installing bridges has changed, Degges said the construction on building the actual bridge remains the same.

“The type of construction has been used for 80 or 90 years,” said Degges. “I believe the NTSB will be able to find the root cause of what happened down there, and maybe there will be some better guidance across the country to help solve the issue.”