Chao calls for inspector general probe into Florida bridge collapse

Chao calls for inspector general probe into Florida bridge collapse
© Screen shot via @GabrielaRose12 and The Miami Herald

Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoLobbying world Democratic chairman presses Transportation secretary over transparency in Boeing 737 Max probe Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show MORE on Monday called upon the agency’s Office of Inspector General to issue an audit of the Florida bridge collapse that killed six people.

In a letter, Chao asked Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III to determine if the project team  adhered to the relevant requirements mandated by its federal funding.

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“To help inform the Department’s decision making and the public’s understanding, the Office of Inspector General is requested to initiate an audit to examine whether the project owner and the design-build team and contractors responsible for the design, planning, construction, installation, and testing of the FIU pedestrian bridge complies with all of the specifications and requirements applicable to this project by virtue of the Department’s provision of Federal funding,” Chao wrote.

The pedestrian bridge, which connected the city of Sweetwater and the FIU campus, collapsed last Thursday.

The bridge had been installed earlier this month using modular construction and utilized some funding from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. The Federal Highway Administration also gave FIU some funds to complete the project, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Chao said the department is “deeply saddened” by the deaths and asked its internal watchdog to keep the agency updated on its findings.

“Safety is the top priority of the Department, and we are deeply saddened by the fatalities resulting from the collapse of the pedestrian bridge intended to serve the campus of Florida International University (FIU) and the neighboring community of Sweetwater, Florida,” Chao said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating the incident.

Meanwhile, Florida Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonBottom Line Bottom Line Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity MORE (D) last week asked Chao to provide the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee with any documents detailing the Transportation Department's part in the project by this Friday.

“There should have been adequate and appropriate oversight on the ground,” Nelson wrote. “If anyone dropped the ball and it contributed to this tragedy then they should be held accountable.”

Nelson, the ranking member of the Commerce Committee, on Tuesday sent a separate letter to Scovel also requesting an audit, but asked that the probe analyze “the actions of all parties to the TIGER grant agreement, including the role of the state, the project sponsor and the DOT.”

—Updated at 2:36 p.m.