Nelson to Feds: Stop Blocking Release of Critical FIU Bridge Collapse Documents

Aug 24, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Citing a state court ruling and the public’s right to know, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) today called on federal regulators to immediately cease all legal actions aimed at blocking the release of records related to the March 15 deadly pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University (FIU).

Nelson made the demand in a letter to the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The call to end the protracted legal battle over the release of the documents comes in the wake of a Tallahassee judge’s ruling on Tuesday.

The judge ordered the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to hand over the records in response to a lawsuit brought by the Miami Herald. On Thursday, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida, on behalf of the NTSB, filed a motion to overturn the ruling by moving the case to federal court.

In his letter, Nelson said the FIU bridge collapse may serve as a cautionary tale for other federally funded bridge projects in Florida.

He pointed to cracks found in the Pensacola Bay Bridge and at least one bridge in Central Florida’s I-4 Ultimate project.

Nelson says the public has a right to know whether state and federal regulators conducted proper oversight of the FIU bridge’s design and construction.

“I find the NTSB’s move to overturn the court ruling and continue to shield these records appalling,” Nelson wrote. “It’s not in the interest of public safety. The victims’ families and the public need to know what steps regulators did or did not take to ensure the safe construction of the FIU pedestrian bridge.”

State officials have repeatedly tried to distance themselves from any responsibility for the bridge.

“It’s not an FDOT project,” said Florida Gov. Rick Scott at press conference the night of the collapse.

Two days later, the Miami Herald reported that state officials had a larger role over the design and construction of the bridge than they had acknowledged.

Six people were killed when the $14.3 million, 950-ton walkway came crashing down on Tamiami Trail in March.

The text of Nelson’s letter is below and a .pdf is available here.

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