Linda Figg and Company Build Bridges that are Functional Works of Art
Spanning the Imagination
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Courtesy of FIGG
Colleagues call her personable, engaging and persuasive, especially when it comes to pitching her designs.
“She’s been an extraordinary leader,” Benefield said.
In 2011, she was inducted into the National Academy of Construction. In 2007, Concrete Construction magazine named her one of the 13 most influential people in the concrete industry, and she was named one of Engineering News Record’s Top 22 Newsmakers in 1998.
Linda Figg was a student when her father, a structural engineer, started a firm with French engineer Jean Muller. Their idea was to incorporate a bridge system used in Europe to replace bridges destroyed by war in a “quick and efficient manner,” she said.
They brought the technology to the United States “and advanced it to another level,” she said. In 1988, Gene Figg became the sole owner of the firm, which expanded and became FIGG Bridge Group.
The company’s method is to use precast, concrete segments “like big Lego blocks,” Figg said. “This is like creating a kit of precast concrete parts from local materials and local labor to assemble quickly at a site.”
FIGG also uses a system of cables that are pulled on tightly with hydraulic stressing equipment. Then the cables and concrete segments are locked into place together to permanently create a superstructure span.
To meet needs in the future, bridges may need to use vertical space to expand, rising out of highway medians, Figg said. And to get more bridges funded, it may be necessary to have more toll bridges in the country.
“The United States has a backlog of needs in infrastructure,” Figg said. “About one in four bridges in the U.S. is structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
“So our focused challenge is to bring the best solutions for getting more sustainable bridges built in communities to grow local economies and improve the quality of life,” she said. Her firm’s goal is to create “bridges that are cost-effective, have a longer life, respect the environment and are aesthetically pleasing. Bridges that are functional bridge sculpture.”
Using its precast concrete method, the Seven Mile Bridge in the Keys was completed six months ahead of schedule, Figg said. She was on the Florida Keys Inspection Site Team, her first job working with her father’s company after graduating from Auburn in 1982.
Since then, FIGG has taken on some formidable projects, including the $234 million replacement of a Minneapolis bridge across the Mississippi River after the original collapsed in 2007, killing 13 people and injuring 145.
Minnesota wanted the new I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis to last at least 100 years, and it had to be built in 11 months. The price of delay without a bridge took an economic toll of $400,000 to $1 million a day, Figg said.
Bridges reflect the latest technology, she said, and the new I-35W bridge incorporated many new advances, including 323 sensors to make the structure a “smart bridge.”
Figg said she relishes her role in getting public input, especially at the beginning of a project to “capture a community’s vision.”
In Daytona Beach, public workshops led to the theme of “Timeless Ecology” on the Broadway Bridge. An artist created 18 wildlife mosaic tiles along the bridge’s sidewalk and walkway. The mosaic at the highest point of the bridge features a pair of bald eagles and other birds.
In North Dakota, FIGG worked with local artists for the Four Bears Bridge at the Fort Berthold Reservation dedicated to the lives of three affiliated tribes who live there — the Mandan, the Hidatsa and the Arikara. The bridge’s pedestrian walkway and railing resemble a linear art gallery celebrating the Indian community.
Figg’s favorite older bridge is the Brooklyn Bridge, which she calls “remarkable.”
“It was the largest thing on the landscape when it was built,” she said.
Even after more than 30 years in the industry, she’s still amazed by the “majesty” of a bridge.
“It can really take your breath away.”