On March 15, 2018, a pedestrian bridge under construction at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, FL, collapsed onto the highway below, resulting in six fatalities and eight injuries. As the FIU project was partially funded by a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary grant, the Secretary of Transportation asked us to evaluate whether it complied with Federal requirements and specifications. In addition, Senator Bill Nelson, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, asked us to review the implementation and oversight roles of the parties to the TIGER agreement. Accordingly, we announced an initial audit to assess whether the FIU project met Federal and Department of Transportation requirements for the TIGER application, selection, and grant agreement processes in place when the project began. As we continue our work, we will address post-award oversight roles and responsibilities.
What We Found
We did not find any evidence connecting the Office of the Secretary of Transportation’s (OST) review and selection of the FIU project grant application in 2013 to the pedestrian bridge collapse in 2018. Decisions on the bridge’s design and construction were made after the grant was selected. However, we did observe documentation shortfalls in the review and selection processes. Many of these observations mirror earlier recommendations issued by the Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office, and OST has addressed them. Specifically, OST’s documentation of its decisions did not address all the factors included in the guidelines. In addition, OST did not document its justification for changing the FIU project’s technical evaluation rating from recommended to highly recommended. Finally, while OST guidelines permit partial funding if the funded components maintain independent utility, OST made changes and reduced funding for the FIU project but did not document how it determined the completed project would be ready for its intended use.
This initial report responds to the Secretary’s and Senator Nelson’s requests and is intended for informational purposes only. We are not making recommendations at this time.