What happens in a bureaucracy that thinks hiring on merit is not ‘Progressive’ enough? Avoidable crap like this.
An engineer noticed a big clue two days before the collapse, but his phone call went to voicemail and wasn’t discovered until AFTER the incident. But that was just one in a series of SNAFUS that ended in tragedy.
What was supposed to be a first-of-it’s kind triumph in engineering became a horrific tragedy. And like most such tragedies, people are looking for scapegoats.
Maybe instead of asking what “one thing” triggered the collapse of the bridge, we should take a step back and look at the entire flawed system. There is more than one company involved, and similar stories could be written about each, but this one traces MCM’s role in the ill-fated Pedestrian bridge.
It’s not like there were no red flags.
We can roll all the way back to the start of the project for the first ones.
This project used something called TIGER Grants, initiated by the Obama administration.
Reason has covered TIGER on multiple occasions, pointing out how the supposedly temporary economic recovery measure quickly morphed into a permanent, maladministered and heavily politicized program, which has sent a total of $5.1 billion to everything from a disastrous streetcar project in Atlanta, to decidedly non-mobile trees and street murals in Los Angeles.
The problems were so widespread and apparent both the House and the Trump Administration made a real effort to kill the program. Trump has called for it to be eliminated in both his budget proposals, something the House agreed to in their 2018 appropriations bill.
Why are these TIGER Grants problematic?
It was a ‘temporary’ stimulus program that was made permanent. And, because it is attached to big money, it became very, very lucrative to anyone willing to politicize it.
In 2014, the GAO released a report that was highly critical of how DOT handled the TIGER V grants, which included money for the FIU pedestrian bridge project. The report said DOT advanced projects with lower technical ratings in lieu of those with higher technical ratings and upgraded the technical rating of 19 projects from acceptable or recommended to highly recommended without documenting a justification. It is unclear from the GAO report whether the FIU bridge project was advanced over more qualified projects or if its technical rating was subsequently upgraded, since the report does not give project-by-project detail.
Source: Reason [emphasis added]
Motivated to politicize it? Sure. That was $5.1 BILLION, of pork, after all.
And, since it WAS an Obama-era policy, you can bet there was an affirmative action element that could be exploited by unscrupulous companies.
The inspector general’s office voiced particular concern about the potential for fraud within the so-called Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, which is aimed at increasing the number of government contracts awarded to minority-owned businesses. “There is a preference given to minority and female-owned firms and it’s to level the playing field, so to speak,” said the Inspector General’s spokesman.
A “typical scheme” involves a prime contractor persuading a minority firm to front for it in obtaining a major federal contract and then receiving a kickback of a set percentage of the overall contract, according to the spokesman. The IG’s report also stressed the need for vigilant oversight of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary grant program that includes stimulus funds. In February 2010, the Office of Secure Transportation (OST) awarded $1.5 billion in stimulus funds for 51 TIGER grants throughout the country. Those grants are for roads, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve critical national objectives.
Source: The Fiscal Times [emphasis added]
Follow the Money
Local papers, who know the players involved, were not the least surprised to see MCM was awarded the contract.
To Miami-Dade County insiders, it was no shock when Munilla Construction Management (MCM) beat out three other competitors to win a $14.2 million bid to build a high-tech pedestrian bridge at Florida International University. That’s because Munilla is not only one of the biggest contractors in South Florida but also one of the most politically connected thanks to years of shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaigns.
Full story: MiamiNewTimes
Other questions raised about political favor-trading in the past were raised here.
If they’re winning contracts like this, how was their safety record? This is, after all, 960 tons of concrete hanging precipitously over a busy street. Safety matters, right?
Although it is too soon to tell what caused the collapse, CBS4 News has learned two of firms that built the bridge have been accused of unsafe practices.
“There is a process of due diligence that takes place,” Rosenberg said. “All of the contractors are fully certified by the state and this has been one of the most intensely managed processes that is around because of the federal support for it.”
Full story at Miami CBS local
Another story, referring to a past event, goes further:
Court documents show that MCM was accused of substandard work in a lawsuit filed earlier this month. The suit said a worker at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, where the company is working on an expansion, was injured when a makeshift MCM-built bridge collapsed under his weight.
The suit accused the company of employing “incompetent, inexperienced, unskilled or careless employees” at the job site.
A review of Occupational Safety Health Administration records shows that MCM has been fined for 11 safety violations in the last five years. The fines totaling more than $50,000 arose from complaints about unsafe trenches, cement dust and other problems at its Florida work sites.
Source: Winston-Salem Journal
Incompetent? Inexperienced? Unskilled? Careless?
Gee, what do the companies that failed to win the bid look like?
Of course, someone tried to blame Trump for a project launched even before he had even announced his candidacy.
Sorry, Politico, you can’t blame Trump
Seriously? The so-called ‘reputable’ sites run crap like that, and the ‘new media’ news gets blasted for being ‘fake’? At least we show our sources.
Just a month ago, President Donald Trump gave his State of the Union Speech where he called for more building and less red tape: “We built the Empire State Building in just one year. Isn’t it a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a permit approved for a simple road … Any (infrastructure) bill must streamline the permitting and approval process — getting it down to no more than two years, and perhaps even one. Together, we can reclaim our building heritage.” That talking point might have collapsed with yesterday’s bridge. — Politico
Actually, rapid bridge replacement has been a ‘thing’ In Canada for several years now. Here’s a video from 2014. But if you’re going to do an engineering project, you have to cross all those T’s and dot all those I’s. Little mistakes have big consequences.
And for the record, Politico portrayed Trump’s leaning away from the TIGER grants that were at the center of this mess as ‘partisan’, and ‘extracting wealth’ from Blue states in the same story that said Trump’s tax cut ‘doesn’t serve the economic interests of the country’.
So we all know just how seriously to take that story, don’t we?
That’s where safety, oversight and vetting become hugely important… and things like corruption, ideology and political interference became so very, very dangerous.
The Right Progressive Boxes
One critic is suggesting that MCM was awarded the contract because they check all the ‘right progressive boxes’.
It probably seemed like a harmless quote at the time. A female engineer, talking about the role of women in ‘STEM’ jobs.
Leonor Flores ’98 is a project executive and one of 63 FIU alumni who work for MCM, the construction firm building the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge, which will further connect FIU and its northerly neighbor, the City of Sweetwater. She was excited to share her work with her family, especially Michelle, who is interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in school.
Michelle said she might want to follow in her parents’ footsteps and go to FIU when the time comes, and that it was fascinating to see her mom’s work in action. “I’m interested in the architecture and the design of the bridge, and the math portion of it,” she said.
Said Leonor: “It’s very important for me as a woman and an engineer to be able to promote that to my daughter, because I think women have a different perspective. We’re able to put in an artistic touch and we’re able to build, too.”
Did you spot it?
I think women have a different perspective. We’re able to put in an artistic touch and we’re able to build, too.
Shouldn’t an engineer have those ideas in the reverse order?
It turns out that MCM has quite a few photos of women in their company. The owners are guys, but the project engineer and a number of high-ranking positions in the company are reportedly female.
Do you know the problem with living in an age of affirmative action hires?
You never know who was hired for their competence, and who was hired for politically expedient reasons, like getting a gender-compliance edge for TIGER Grants, which just ‘happen’ to be connected to Multi-Million dollar mega-projects.
Remember those four words: Incompetent. Inexperienced. Unskilled. Careless.
Were they were truly hiring the best, or did they have something else in mind?
Profit motive? Gaming the system? Nah. That couldn’t have anything to do with it.
This is further complicated by some professors bringing a gender-studies and ‘intersectional’ agenda even to the STEM departments. It’s anybody’s guess to what degree their ideologies could impact training and competence. A sampling:
Ok, so merit is ‘white supremacy’. On the other hand, NOT hiring by merit can result in cars crushed under bridges. That’s really a tough call, huh?
Logic, Math and reason are now ‘gendered’ and ‘white supremacist’. I bet the really smart guys who designed the Egyptian pyramids, or developed the Mayan calendar, or developed Algebra in ancient China or predicted an eclipse for the first time would find that view somewhat confusing.
But this thinking, now infecting our universities, could literally cost people their lives. Remind me again how ‘merit’ and ‘competence’ are ‘bad things’?
FDOT Not Made Aware
FDOT explains that they issued a permit, at FIU’s design build team’s request, to close Southwest 8th Street during Saturday’s installation and issued an additional blanket permit which allowed for two-lane closures effective January through April.
The agency says that at no time did it receive a request to close the entire road.
FDOT also says that it was not made away by the FIU design build team of any scheduled “stress testing” of the bridge following Saturday’s installation.
Source: CBS [emphasis added]
Which brings us to W. Denny Pate, one guy who clearly did something right, as we promised at the beginning:
The ONE Red Flag that WAS noticed
On Tuesday, two days before the collapse, W. Denny Pate, FIGG’s lead engineer noticed cracking on the bridge and tried to give warning to DOT officials.
Unfortunately, the person he called was out of the office, out on assignment that day the message didn’t reach him until Friday, by when it was too late. If that ‘small’ symptom had been investigated, perhaps the larger problem would have been spotted. Now we may never know.
Here is the transcript of Pate’s call.
“Hey Tom, this is Denney Pate with FIGG bridge engineers. Calling to, uh, share with you some information about the FIU pedestrian bridge and some cracking that’s been observed on the north end of the span, the pylon end of that span we moved this weekend. Um, so, uh, we’ve taken a look at it and, uh, obviously some repairs or whatever will have to be done but from a safety perspective we don’t see that there’s any issue there so we’re not concerned about it from that perspective although obviously the cracking is not good and something’s going to have to be, ya know, done to repair that. At any rate, I wanted to chat with you about that because I suspect at some point that’s gonna get to your desk. So, uh, at any rate, call me back when you can. Thank you. Bye.”
Who do we blame?
Criminal charges may well be filed, police have said. But in pinning down ONE person, we may miss the bigger issue.
Big Government itself has to shoulder at least some of the blame.
These blunders — much like the ones we saw leading up to the School shooting — are why we don’t put great faith in big government.
But watch — leftists will show their true colors after this, and will call for the punishment of companies, and the establishment of even BIGGER and FARTHER-REACHING government programs and departments.
It brings us to Reagan’s most terrifying words in the English language:
I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.