Bridge construction has come under intense scrutiny in recent months in the wake of a series of bridge collapses in both the U.S. and abroad.
In Florida, investigators are still assessing the events surrounding the collapse of a pedestrian bridge on Florida International University’s Miami campus. The collapse, which happened in March, claimed the lives of six people and has sparked scrutiny over bridge design and construction practices.
Currently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the circumstances regarding the collapse and looking for any indication of what might have caused it. Recently, photos have been released portraying large cracks in the bridge’s concrete supports. While initial tests on the crack’s do not indicate they are the direct cause, their development shortly before the collapse remains troubling.
At the center of all this scrutiny is a new method of bridge construction – one meant to maximize worker efficiency while minimizing public disruption: accelerated bridge construction.
The ABCs of Bridge Construction
Accelerated bridge construction (ABC) is a method that has caught on in popularity in recent years due to it’s relative success with keeping the public unimpeded in their day-to-day routine. After all, who wants to be slowed to a crawl while waiting for construction crews to clear the road or lose 10 min. from your day by getting rerouted through a construction detour?
ABC contracts involve certain incentives for early project completion as well as penalties and fines fro delayed projects. Typically, ABC projects will be completed in of two ways to minimize public inconvenience:
- Assembly of preconstructed components
- Off-site construction
Construction Defect Concerns
While the ABC method is popular among state and federal officials due to the relief it provides on planning and execution, however it is not without its critics.
Accelerated bridge construction puts an enormous strain on engineers, contractors and construction crews assigned to the project. Critics say the pressures of ABC contracts can lead to safety oversights and materials misuse posing dangerous construction defect risks.