- Concerns over cracks in a concrete bridge deck of the $400 million Pensacola Bay Bridge, which will connect Pensacola, Florida, to Gulf Breeze, Florida, led the Florida Department of Transportation to shut down that phase of the work twice during the last four months, according to the Pensacola News Journal.
- FDOT said the cracks were first discovered in March when inspectors examined recently placed concrete. This caused state transportation officials to stop the bridge deck concrete work from April 5 to April 16 and June 26-27, although other segments of work continued.
- Some local officials and lawmakers have questioned why FDOT did not disclose the cracks when they were identified and have called on the department to bring in engineers to determine the cause. An FDOT spokesman said that the contractor, Skanska USA, had changed material and installation methods. "Although cracking in concrete bridge components is not uncommon, the department takes cracking in the new Pensacola Bay Bridge seriously and the cracks will be addressed according to the project's specifications," he said.
Inspectors would have discovered cracks in the bridge deck of the Pensacola Bay Bridge about the same time the pedestrian bridge at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami collapsed March 15, killing six people and injuring several others.
It was only revealed by documents provided to the Miami Herald as part of a public records request that cracks in the FIU bridge were likely observed a few weeks prior to the bridge failure. Photographs and an internal email, unintentionally released by the state, indicate that some on the project team might have found cracks at the spot where the bridge supports snapped. Responses from engineers surveyed by the Miami Herald ranged from dismissal to great concern about the inaction the design and construction took prior to the collapse.
While cracks in newly placed concrete could indicate some sort of structural issue, a scenario which the FDOT has vehemently denied in the case of the Pensacola Bay Bridge, many times cracks are superficial and can either be eliminated in the finishing stage or sealed. Nonstructural cracks left unaddressed could reduce the lifespan of the concrete but would not typically create public or worker safety issues.
However, even if the project is delayed for a few days, contractors should always make sure the engineer of record is made aware of any cracks and be prepared to hire an independent inspector to settle any potential disagreements about the nature of the cracks.