Each school day, hundreds of Miami Dade College students brave the traffic along Northwest 117th Avenue in search of a parking space and then, they hope, a safe stroll to class.
But it was not supposed to be like this.
It’s been nearly two years since a $22 million parking garage under construction collapsed, killing four workers.
Since then, the school said, litigation has prevented the demolition of what remains and replacement with a new structure that would serve the 6,000 students who commute to the location.
Students who spoke to Team 6 have a word or two about the inconvenience of parking up to three quarters of a mile away and then walking to their MDC West classes.
“Pretty bad,” said one.
“Dangerous, hazardous,” added another.
“It’s very horrible,” one young woman said, adding what might be the students’ consensus opinion in two words: “It sucks.”
But, MDC communications director Juan Mendieta said, change is coming.
“MDC understands the challenges with parking at MDC West and has provided some temporary alternatives,” he said in a statement. “However, legal action has limited the college’s ability to address the issue more swiftly. Within these constraints, MDC is working as diligently and expeditiously as possible to resolve the situation. It is working with a new builder to start the demolition of the damaged garage structure during the college’s winter recess later this year. Dismantling the structure will take three to five months. Following demolition, the builder will construct a new garage structure.”
About three-quarters of the structure remains standing, but the college maintains it is too unstable to repair what remains and rebuild the collapsed sections.
According to court records in the resulting lawsuits, the contractor claimed it could be repaired and restored, but the college contends in court papers the “costs and time to restore would approximate or exceed the cost of demolishing and rebuilding.”
The college’s lawsuit claims lead contractor Ajax Construction and others are responsible for failing to grout a concrete column, leaving the structure so unstable that a crane nudging an adjacent column caused the entire quadrant of the six-story garage to pancake down on itself – and on workers.
So lawsuits and counter-suits among the college, contractors, bonding agent and subcontractors languish in court, while students who do not use shuttle bus service to a nearby mall parking lot take to Northwest 117th Avenue on foot, or skateboard, for a long trek to class.
Families of the four coworkers who died in the collapse reached undisclosed settlements with the contractor.