Community gathers to watch 950-ton bridge move across Southwest 8th Street

UPDATE, March 16, 2018, 11 a.m.: To clarify, Leonor Flores did not work on the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge project in any capacity.

Twelve-year-old Michelle Flores shared a special moment with her family at FIU this past Saturday: She and her sister Gabriela joined their parents, FIU alumni Leonor and Henry Flores MIS ’01, to watch a 950-ton section of a pedestrian bridge swing into its permanent position across Southwest 8th Street.

Leonor Flores ’98 is a project executive and one of 63 FIU alumni who work for MCM, the construction firm building the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge, which will further connect FIU and its northerly neighbor, the City of Sweetwater. She was excited to share her work with her family, especially Michelle, who is interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in school.

Michelle said she might want to follow in her parents’ footsteps and go to FIU when the time comes, and that it was fascinating to see her mom’s work in action. “I’m interested in the architecture and the design of the bridge, and the math portion of it,” she said.

Said Leonor: “It’s very important for me as a woman and an engineer to be able to promote that to my daughter, because I think women have a different perspective. We’re able to put in an artistic touch and we’re able to build, too.”

The pedestrian bridge, which crosses Southwest 8th Street at the 109th Avenue intersection, will provide a safer crossing of the eight-lane thoroughfare for the 4,200 FIU students living in Sweetwater. Between its walkways and plazas, it will also provide 9,900 square feet of gathering and event space.

A rendering of what the bridge will look like upon completion next year.

Residents of the City of Sweetwater will have increased access to all that FIU has to offer the community, including: free programming and exhibitions at the Frost Art Museum; walking trails through the FIU Nature Preserve; sports games; musical and theatrical performances at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center; and the FIU Health faculty group practice located on 109th Avenue.

“From day one, this university has never existed in isolation. From an airfield, we rose for this community. We continue to grow for this community, and this project is proof,” said President Mark B. Rosenberg at a ceremony commemorating the move that day. “We are so grateful that our standing can be enhanced in this act of cooperating that communicates very concretely that nothing is going to stand in our way of promoting our students’ safety and security, and nothing is going to stand in our way of progress. Nothing is going to stand in our way of doing what’s right for this community.”

Panthers, including residents of 109 Tower and 4th Street Commons in Sweetwater and Honors College students who volunteer in the community, will benefit from the pedestrian bridge as well.

Biology student Roshawn Brown, who lives at 109 Tower, said he’s thankful for the future pedestrian bridge and for a safer crossing to class every day.

“Having this bridge is a blessing,” he said, adding that it was cool to watch the rig move the section into place after having passed by it in progress every day since construction began in 2017. “It was beautiful. It was amazing to watch something like this, because I’ve always seen highways and bridges being built, and I’ve never understood how this is made possible.”

To keep the inevitable disruption of traffic associated with bridge construction to a minimum, the 174-foot portion of the bridge was built adjacent to Southwest 8th Street using a method called Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) and was driven into its perpendicular position across the road by a rig in only six hours on Saturday, March 10.

Read more about funding for the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge and accelerated bridge construction

Students in FIU’s engineering and architecture programs came out at 5 a.m. to watch the theory they learn in class take form in a real-world application.

Civil engineering doctoral student Dewan Hossain said: “I would say this is magic. In five hours using that ABC technology and sensors, the bridge is already there. In the classroom, we learn about the design, the construction, the safety – that’s a big issue – and here we’re seeing it actually happening. Here we are establishing a real, practical application of what we learn in the classroom. I would encourage more students to come view these types of projects to enhance what they learn.”

Construction of the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge is expected to finish in early 2019.