2 + 2 = 5 means more bridges will collapse

Reality is true even if you don’t want it to be. And it has certain characteristics, which includes the fact that you need to do engineering right. Firm blamed for deadly FIU pedestrian bridge collapse suspended from federal contracts.

There has been a lot of talk about how Mathematics is racist, and that Math is sexist. Well, math also describes the way the universe works, and if you want things like electric power, electric vehicles, better internet and computers, and bridges that don’t fall down, someone had better understand the math and the physics.

The FIU pedestrian bridge designed by FIGG Bridge Engineers collapsed in March of 2018 while it was still under construction. Six people died. Faulty design, due to incorrect calculations of load factors, was blamed.

Last month, the Federal Highway Administration placed FIGG on immediate suspension of any projects that involve federal funding. The FHWA also proposes that FIGG be debarred from any federally funded work for 10 years.

The company won’t survive under those conditions.

Texas decided to review work that the same design firm was doing for TxDOT. They didn’t like what they found. Harris County Commissioners vote unanimously to change engineer of $962 million Ship Channel bridge.

I am not an engineer, but clearly there was something wrong with either the design of the FIU bridge or the construction, or both. The other thing wrong was that FIU spent something like 12 million dollars for a bridge that could have been built for less than 1 million. There was a federal grant! I don’t know how to gauge the quality of their designs, but when you get bridges designed incorrectly, they fall down. They usually don’t fall down before they are in use.

Harris County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to change the engineer of record on the Sam Houston Tollway Ship Channel Bridge after a review found one portion that had not yet been built contained a potential design flaw.

That design was done by FIGG. FIGG is saying it all fine. They were also replaced on another bridge in Texas. New designer named for Corpus Christi’s Harbor Bridge replacement after FIGG fired.

In removing FIGG from the project, TxDOT cited a National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the 2018 Miami bridge collapse. The report released in October cited load and capacity calculation errors by FIGG for the pedestrian bridge’s design.

You can find more info about the FIU bridge collapse at this link. It is what started this whole review process.

6 thoughts on “2 + 2 = 5 means more bridges will collapse

  1. Pingback: When America can no longer build things, do the bean-counters pick up shovels and pickaxes?

  2. Someone needs to be tracking the FIGG employees to see where they wind up; smart companies – assuming there are any left, most today seem thoroughly corrupted by Lefty Wokeness, rendering them incompetent and useless – would not hire anyone with even the slightest scent of FIGG on them.

    That, however, would be – gasp – “discrimination,” that oh, so despicable animal. In another light, though, it’s simple self preservation: hiring “engineers” with demonstrable incompetence will kill your company, your stock options and your kids’ college funds, whether you make bridges or can openers.

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  3. Interesting. As soon as I saw your post title, before reading any text, I immediately thought of the FIU bridge. For the past two years, that’s been my go-to example of what happens when you substitute dumbassery and magical thinking for math and engineering. When it happened, I wondered how those cars that got crushed made it past the road block. Then it came out that they didn’t think the road needed to closed for hoisting and installing multi-ton members. Then the cracks went public, and they blew them off as “cosmetic.” They weren’t cosmetic, they were clearly structural fails. (No, I’m not an engineer; I was a tech. But to be a good tech, I had to know some of the engineering. It also helped that my father used to give me civil engineering textbooks for recreational reading. I still have the beam/span computer he gave me.)

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  4. It’s ironic that today, you can go use bridges built by the Romans nearly 2000 years ago and they’re fine, but modern bridges built with CAE and centuries of analysis fall down. Has the only thing the centuries of analysis done is make it easier to screw up the design?

    So the Roman bridges aren’t as streamlined and pretty looking as the new bridges, so what? They sure are functional.

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    • Some ancient bridges are beautiful. One of my favorites is the Anji or Zhaozhou bridge in China. It was constructed between 595–605 AD. Interleaved arches make it both light and strong, and able to pass flood waters – which it has had to do. And the cast iron dovetails are just beautiful.


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