Rumors of prominent Haitian families at odds with intent to sabotage, to thieves who steal nuts and bolts to sell for money, and other stories of intrigue gripped the island as locals tried to piece together what caused a notable bridge to collapse in March.
The Duviver Bridge, located on Route 9, is only one of two major highways in Haiti transporting nearly 12,000 vehicles in and out of Port-Au-Prince on a daily basis. On March 18, the north bridge span buckled as two dump trucks traveled in the southbound lane.
The bridge route is vital to transportation in Haiti, prompting USAID-Haiti to call upon the expertise of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to assess the condition of the bridge, determine the cause of the collapse, and recommend solutions for re-opening the bridge to traffic.
The Corps assembled its brightest team of experts and sent them out to solve the mystery of the collapsed bridge. The team was comprised of Jacksonville District Project Manager Tim Brown, Engineering Technical Lead Crystal Markley, and Philadelphia District’s bridge expert Adrian Kollias.
Erected in 1997, the bridge is a 2-span, two-lane, prefabricated modular steel Thomas Story 700 Series Bridge. The bridge crosses the River Grise and supports a walkway allowing passage to hundreds of pedestrians daily.
The Corps team inspected all bridge components and concluded that several possible factors may have contributed to the incident – overloaded trucks, poor maintenance, and existing damage.
The bridge is designed to support a 30-ton vehicle load capacity, and truckloads exceeding 40 tons regularly travel on Haitian roads, according to local government officials. The team concluded frequent and unregulated bridge crossings by trucks exceeding the design load impacted the bridge and may have contributed to its failure.
Minor existing damage on the bridge was noted during the Corps’ inspection. Although no maintenance or inspection records exist, the damage appeared to be pre-existing and may have contributed to the collapse.
The team recommended that the collapsed northern span of the bridge be replaced with a similar modular steel truss bridge with increased load capacity. Although there were no significant structural damages noted in the southern span, the team strongly recommended that the southern span is replaced to ensure public safety.
The team also conducted three inspections of bridges in Carrefour, Leogane, and Petit Goave while in the area.
U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Ted Kim said the mission was an overall success – indicating nothing but praises for the team. Kim stressed that the government of Haiti really appreciated the Corps’ engineering expertise and assistance.
As for those pesky rumors, they were quickly squashed after the team reported their findings to the local government and the U.S. Embassy.