Engineers behind collapsed Fla. bridge involved in East Chicago project

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (WLS) -- The same bridge engineers involved with the pedestrian bridge that collapsed in Miami, killing six, are also involved in engineering a bridge in Northwest Indiana.

Figg Bridge Engineers have been involved in the construction of the new Cline Avenue Bridge in East Chicago, parts of which have already been constructed. The $140 million project will replace the old Cline Avenue Bridge, which was closed and condemned in 2009.

East Chicago Councilmember Robert Garcia is now calling for an emergency public safety meeting about the bridge after learning of Figg Bridge Engineers' involvement.

"We will be planning a meeting as soon as possible. We want to bring the Figg group in, also, on this meeting so we can voice our opinion," Garcia said.

Garcia said he knows there is still much to learn from Florida incident, but he and other council members want to make sure they don't see a repeat of 1982 when sections of the Cline Avenue Bridge collapsed under construction due to a design flaw, killing 14 people including workers.

"We don't want another repeat," he said.

When ABC7 Eyewitness News reached out to Figg Bridge Engineers, they referred us to their publicists who did not comment directly on the Cline Avenue project.

The mayor of East Chicago was also unreachable for comment Friday.

"This is about saving lives, not constructing a bridge, this is about saving lives and we want it done the best safety way possible," Garcia said.

The new Cline Avenue Bridge will stretch more than a mile, rising 10 stories above the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal when it opens in 2019.

In terms of bridge safety and construction in general, an expert from Northwestern University said what happened at Florida International University Thursday is extremely uncommon.

"There are any number of things that can cause a failure like this, failures like this are exceptionally rare and that is a good thing for society. There is a wide range of checks and balances both at the design phase, the construction phase, the inspection phase, but unfortunately we are not able to completely remove the possibility of something like this happening," said Prof. David Corr, Northwestern University.

Figg Bridge Engineers has been under fire legally in the past. In one incident, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry confirmed that Figg was fined for an incident in 2012. A bridge they designed collapsed onto a railway, injuring some workers. Figg was fined $28,000, but it was later reduced to $9,800.
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