The U.S. Dept. of Transportation has suspended and is proposing to debar for 10 years FIGG Bridge Engineers from performing work on any federally funded or assisted projects, according to the department's Federal Highway Administration.
The FHWA actions are based on FIGG's role in the 2018 pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University in Miami. The collapse killed six people when the concrete truss structure in the final stages of construction fell onto a busy road.
FHWA also has suspended and proposed to debar W. Denney Pate, FIGG's engineer-in-charge for the Florida bridge project.
In an email to ENR, a FHWA spokesperson said that the agency's actions result from "safety failures" related to the bridge collapse.
The spokesperson added that the suspensions and proposed debarments are "being taken in the interest of protecting public safety."
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation report last year blamed several companies for their roles but reserved its harshest criticism for FIGG, the design subcontractor in a design-build contract award.
In its report, NTSB stated that several members of the project team failed to exercise their implied authority to stop traffic beneath the incomplete structure as cracks worsened and the project team explored their significance and what to do about them.
FIGG has consistently denied responsibility for the design errors or errors in judgment during construction pointed out by NTSB's investigation team. Cutting the firm off from federally funded or assisted projects would be another blow to the 42-year-old firm that has contributed to some of the most recognizable bridges in the U.S.
Last month, Texas officials tapped the team of Arup and CFC to complete engineering on the $930-million U.S. Route 181/Harbor Bridge in Corpus Christi, replacing FIGG as engineer-of-record. It was removed from the design-build project in February over concerns about the firm’s involvement in the Florida collapse.
The recent action against FIGG is mentioned in a letter from Howard R. Elliott, DOT acting inspector general, to members of a House of Representatives committee concerned with transportation and related spending.
The letter stated that on July 14 "FHWA suspended and proposed to debar FIGG Bridge Engineers—the firm that designed the FIU pedestrian bridge—for a period of 10 years."
FHWA's action also is listed in the U.S. General Services Administration's System for Award Management database. [Search database here.]
A statement from FIGG said that FHWA’s notice is a preliminary step that initiates a formal process, including a fact-finding proceeding, by which the company will challenge the agency action.
FIGG also stated that it has notified FHWA that "we will vigorously contest the agency’s proposed action. The company strongly believes that FHWA’s action is neither supported by the facts or the law and will pursue all due process and remedies available to oppose FHWA’s move and end the suspension."
Story updated on 8/3/2020 with statement from FHWA.