Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Carmel on the Case: Stuck Bridges
It's the price we pay for living around all this beautiful water. We have to wait when bridges open for boats but what goes up doesn't always come down. So just how often do our bridges get stuck in the up position? Investigator reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- It's easy to get annoyed when a bridge has been in the open position for what seems to be a very long time or closed but still not open to traffic.
That's just what was happening on the west bridge of the JFK Causeway in Miami at the end of July. The delay was so long some drivers decided to turn around.
Carmel Cafiero: "Channel 7 is located right between the east bridge and the west bridge, so we are painfully aware when either bridge is stuck. It seemed to us the west bridge was getting stuck a lot, so we decided to check the records."
And those records show that, during the first six months of this year, the bridge was stuck twelve times. But it may have been out of commission more than that.
Carmel Cafiero: "Is the state doing its job keeping this particular bridge operating the way it should be?"
Frank Guyamier: "Yes, I think so."
Frank Guyamier is an engineer with the Florida Department of Transportation. He is responsible for making sure hundreds of bridges in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties are in shipshape condition.
But the drawbridges are maintained by an outside company under contract with the state.
Frank Guyamier: "There's a certain level of trust that goes in these asset management companies."
And Guyamier says he trusts the company managing the west bridge.
Frank Guyamier: "Usually, when we review routine maintenance logs, we can see what they have been routinely working on."
Yet we found multiple entries marked maintenance with no explanation what kind of work was being performed. A source at DOT told us this could be a way of underreporting malfunctions.
Carmel Cafiero: "Do you think that's appropriate?"
Frank Guyamier: "I don't think it's ill intent."
When a log is marked for maintenance a bridge might or might not be out of commission making it hard to determine just how often a bridge isn't working.
After our questions, Guyamier says he will require details on future maintenance entries. DOT meanwhile says the management company always calls when there has been a malfunction.
Carmel Cafiero: "And where do we get a record of those calls?"
Frank Guyamier: "We don't. We just receive a phone call."
Carmel Cafiero: "So you don't keep a record?"
Frank Guyamier: "No, we don't."
Guyamier says the west bridge opens a lot, and the malfunction rate is low.
Bridge Tender: "In Flight, Broad Causeway, come back please."
However, just north is the Broad Causeway bridge operated by the town of Bay Harbor Islands.
It has not broken at all this year or last year or even the year before that.
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE: