October 30, 2018 / 7:34 PM / a month ago

Audit finds deadly Florida bridge collapse not tied to U.S. grant

FILE PHOTO: Workers remove debris from a collapsed pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, U.S., March 16, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Transportation Department inspector general’s audit set to be released on Wednesday found no evidence the Obama administration’s 2013 grant for a Florida bridge project was a factor in a deadly accident in March but raised concerns about the award process.

The collapse of a pedestrian bridge under construction at Florida International University killed six, including five people in vehicles, and injured eight. The National Transportation Safety Board said in May it was evaluating the bridge design, construction process, and the construction materials and the emergence of cracks in several areas of the bridge as part of its probe.

The inspector general report, scheduled to be published Wednesday and seen by Reuters, did not find evidence connecting the $11.4 million grant to the collapse, but found “documentation shortfalls in the review and selection process.”

A second phase of the audit will address oversight of the project after the grant award.

In a letter attached to the report, Derek Kan, the Transportation Department under secretary for policy, said the department agreed there was no evidence the award was connected to the collapse. Kan wrote that the department has “significantly” improved evaluation and administrative procedures on similar grant awards.

The school said in March that engineers and state and university officials had met hours before the new bridge collapsed but concluded a crack in the structure was not a safety concerns. In August, the NTSB released photos of larger cracks from before the collapse then had been previously known.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio

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