March 20, 2018 / 6:40 PM / in 10 months

U.S. Transportation Secretary seeks probe of fatal Florida bridge collapse

FILE PHOTO: Aerial view shows a pedestrian bridge collapsed at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, U.S., March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao asked the department’s inspector general to probe whether a federally funded pedestrian bridge that collapsed and killed six in Florida complied with all rules, her office said on Tuesday.

Chao said in a letter she has asked for an audit to determine if the bridge owner and the design-build team had followed requirements as a condition of receiving federal funding.

The 950-ton, $16.6 million pedestrian bridge, which crossed an eight-lane highway adjacent to Florida International University (FIU) to link the campus with the city of Sweetwater, collapsed on Thursday, crushing vehicles in traffic below.

On Monday, Florida Governor Rick Scott ordered the Florida Department of Transportation to suspend the payment of all remaining federal funding for the collapsed pedestrian bridge.

Scott said the funding will be withheld indefinitely pending the completion of the National Transportation Safety Board investigation. The project was awarded $13.6 million in federal funding. “Before another dollar is spent on this bridge, we must know exactly what happened,” Scott said in a statement.

Engineers and state and university officials met hours before the new pedestrian bridge collapsed but concluded a crack in the structure was not a safety concern, the university said earlier. About three hours after the meeting ended, the bridge collapsed, crushing vehicles stopped at a traffic light.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

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