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After Florida collapse, Cline Avenue bridge builder says its bridges are 'incredibly durable' and called tragedy 'unprecedented event'

After Florida collapse, Cline Avenue bridge builder says its bridges are 'incredibly durable' and called tragedy 'unprecedented event'

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An artist's rendering of the Cline Avenue bridge, provided by Figg Bridge Group.

Figg Bridge Group, the designer of the Florida International University bridge that collapsed Thursday and of the Cline Avenue Bridge currently under construction in East Chicago, said Friday its bridges are "incredibly durable" and called the Florida tragedy "an unprecedented event."

As the National Transportation Safety Board investigates the Florida collapse, Figg said it "will fully cooperate with every appropriate authority in reviewing what happened and why."

The Cline Avenue Bridge will be a 6,000-foot span rising 100 feet over the Indiana Harbor & Ship Canal. The bridge replaces one condemned in 2009 and later torn down by the state of Indiana. The new bridge is scheduled to open in January 2020, and will operate as a privately owned toll bridge.

That fact continues to frustrate Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., who said Thursday's accident in Florida added to his concern.

"This is the same company that is going to build our bridge, which is going to carry semis 100 feet in the air? A bridge over which 30,000 vehicles a day crossed. That is certainly concerning for me," he said.

McDermott said the state would have built the bridge had it been anywhere else in Indiana.

"Instead of accepting its responsibility, the state shirked their responsibility onto Mayor (Anthony) Copeland in East Chicago to do a $100 million project, and contracted out the job with this company in Florida to come in and do it on the cheap and make it a toll bridge," he said.

A spokesman for Copeland referred The Times to Figg Bridge for comment.

An Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman noted that the development agreement between East Chicago and Cline Avenue Bridge LLC — the local corporation set up to build the bridge — requires the developer to follow federal design and construction standards. And an agreement between the developer and INDOT provides that the bridge will be part of the National Bridge Inventory System, and will be subject to the same biannual inspections as state and locally maintained bridges.

United Bridge Partners, a joint venture of Figg Bridge Group and the private investment firm American Infrastructure Funds, will own and operate Cline Avenue Bridge. The partnership also owns and operates the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge in Chesapeake, Virginia. During construction in 2012, a section of the bridge crashed onto railroad tracks and injured several workers, resulting in the state imposing a fine on Figg, according to a story in The Virginian-Pilot.

But Figg expressed confidence in its bridges, stating "we have worked on more than 230 bridges throughout the United States and have designed nearly 35 miles of bridges in the southeastern Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico that have withstood multiple hurricanes."

Among the most prominent projects in Figgs' 40-year history are the Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge in Boston, the Saint Anthony Falls Bridge in Minneapolis, the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Times staff writer Bill Dolan contributed to this report.


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