What is Accelerated Bridge Construction and Why did it Fail in Miami?

A quick look at the prefabricated technique speeding up build times, now under fire after the latest accident in Miami

A bridge collapses in Miami, killing six. Find out more about the Accelerated Bridge Construction technique and what could have caused the accident
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Engineers are looking into the latest tragedy in Miami as a footbridge collapses at the International University of Florida, killing six and wounding eight.

ABC is at the heart of it all, Accelerated Bridge Construction, the new technique used for the bridge that collapsed in Miami. Installed just a week ago, the 53 meter, 950 ton structure was set to be inaugurated in 2019.

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It’s strange to hear of a bridge being installed, but that’s exactly what happened here, where the majority of work was completed off-site before being transferred to its final destination.

“Instead of closing traffic for long periods of time as you build all parts of the bridge on-site, you can reduce the impact to the traffic if you can build some parts off-site and then move them to the site and then put them in place,” said Janey Camp, research associate professor in civil engineering at Vanderbilt University.

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At it’s core, the ABC technique employs prefabricated elements that are transferred to the building site for final construction in a studied move to limit problems in the traditional building method. The special technique can also help minimize completion time and environmental impact while increasing work area safety and duration.

“The timely innovation comes when approximately 25 percent of our Nation's aging bridges need repair or replacement and our highways are already congested without the added strain of road closures,” said the Federal Highway Administration. According to them, 600,000 bridges are in need of repairs or replacement throughout the entire USA. In the last ten years, ten ABC bridges have already been built in Tennessee and shouldn’t necessarily be to blame in the latest incident in Miami. Andy Hermann, ex-president of the American Association of Civil Engineers said the accident “…could be materials, it could be construction technique, it could be the engineering design itself”.

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In moving the bridge from one site to another, load points can also be miscalculated and should be accounted for in transportation. The project is currently under review to understand what went wrong in the various phases of construction.

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