TDOT officials discuss possibility of bridge collapse in Shelby County

SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - As investigators work to pick up the pieces in Florida after a 950-ton pedestrian bridge collapsed Thursday, many are asking how it happened.

The bridge in Florida was built using a popular but relatively new bridge technology specifically designed to speed up construction while maintaining safety.

That same construction method, called Accelerated Bridge Construction or ABC, is also used in Shelby County.

One bridge on I-240 was constructed the same way as the bridge that collapsed in Florida.

"What that really means is we will build components of this bridge independently and in pieces and then roll them into place and then put the bridge in, in the span of a weekend," Will Reed with Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Other bridges in Shelby County that will soon be built are going to use the ABC method. Those bridges will replace the current bridges on I-240 at East Poplar, West Poplar, Park Avenue, and Norfolk Southern Railroad.

Officials said there are several benefits to the ABC method, including keeping construction crews safe while working away from the road and limiting the impact on traffic.

It also allows bridges to be completed in record time. Reports from Florida indicate the bridge at FIU was installed in just six hours.

TDOT officials said bridges in Tennessee have more of a traditional design, while the FIU bridge appears to be unique.

In a statement released Friday, TDOT said in part:

"Since we do not yet know whether the collapse was caused by a design issue on the front end or an issue related to ABC, it is too early for TDOT to determine whether any changes to our processes will be appropriate."

A Memphis-based company called Banhart Crane helped lift and deliver the bridge in Florida.

That company released the following statement:

"Barnhart Crane and Rigging is saddened by the news of the tragedy that occurred in Miami with the collapse of the Florida International University pedestrian bridge.  Barnhart was contracted to move the bridge into place and was not involved with the design or construction of the bridge. Our scope of work was completed without incident and according to all technical requirements.  Barnhart crews and equipment were not on site at the time of the incident.  We will fully cooperate with authorities as they investigate the cause of the collapse.  Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this tragic event."

TDOT officials said they'll wait until the federal investigation is complete and to see whether or not the National Transportation Safety Board issues any recommendations.

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