Construction firm connected to FL bridge collapse has VA ties

Construction firm connected to FL bridge collapse has VA ties
Published: Mar. 16, 2018 at 3:16 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 16, 2018 at 7:00 PM EDT
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HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Following the deadly pedestrian bridge collapse in Florida on Thursday, NBC12 has learned one of the construction firms involved has Virginia ties.

The FIGG Bridge Group built three structures in the Commonwealth: the Jordan bridge in Hampton Roads, the Smart Road Road bridge in Blacksburg and the Varina-Enon Bridge in Henrico/Hopewell.

The Varina-Enon Bridge is one-of-a-kind. Open to traffic in 1990, it uses cables to support the bridge deck, which makes it easier for bigger boats to cross the James River under it. VDOT is in charge of maintaining the bridge.

"This bridge has had a lot of attention in its 28 years," says Jeff Hill, the VDOT Richmond District bridge engineer. "We want the public to know that the Varina-Enon Bridge is safe. It is inspected. We routinely provide routine maintenance on all structures - especially on this one."

Hill says inspections are done every two years. Every fourth year, inspectors will take an in-depth look at the structure.

"We're checking elevations, we check some vibrations and more in-depth in general," says Hill.

According to FIGG's website, the company says this design saved VDOT millions of dollars and even withstood a tornado in 1993. The only major issue NBC12 could find with the Varina-Enon Bridge happened in 2007: repairs had to be made for tendons that were corroded or broken.

"Since 2007, we have not had any broken tendons and have not had to replace any broken tendons," says Hill.

FIGG's website describes the bridge as:

... The world's first use of precast concrete delta frames for construction of its 630-foot cable-stayed main span. The cost effective and innovative structure carries six lanes of traffic over the James River. Complete in July 1990, this $34.4 million bridge saved the Virginia Department of Transportation approximately $10-million over their project estimate.  All seven bidders choose the precast concrete segmental design over the competing steel design. This unique cable-stayed bridge withstood a direct tornado strike on August 6, 1993, across the center of its main span without any damage although the tornado overturned trucks traveling on the bridge.  It has earned Virginia Department of Transportation seven design awards.

While there are no issues in the Richmond area, it's a different story in Hampton Roads. In 2012, FIGG was fined $28,000 when the Jordan Bridge collapsed during construction, injuring several workers - but the bridge is also featured on the company's website.

NBC12 asked VDOT for the inspection report for the Varina-Enon Bridge, but was given this statement:

Based on guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Virginia Department of Transportation's practice is to not release bridge inspection reports because they qualify as critical infrastructure information.

At least six people were killed in Thursday's bridge collapse, and officials believe they may find more bodies on Friday.

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