Harbor Bridge contractor pledges to address safety concerns

Dive Brief:

  • The Flatiron/Dragados joint venture building the Corpus Christi, Texas, Harbor Bridge project has committed to taking any actions necessary to ensure the project is completed to address Texas DOT’s specifications, according to a DOT press release. Texas DOT had halted construction work on the span in July over safety concerns.
  • Citing a “lack of responsiveness” to these concerns, Texas DOT said on Aug. 16 that the contractors had two weeks to present an updated design for the main cable-stayed portion of the bridge, or be fired from the $803 million project. 
  • In a Aug. 28 response letter to Texas DOT, Flatiron/Dragados acknowledged full responsibility for safe bridge design and construction. Texas DOT called the recent exchange “productive” and said discussions have taken a new direction and tone since it issued a notice of default last month.

Dive Insight:

In early August, the agency warned that the new span has design flaws so significant that “the bridge would collapse under certain load conditions” if it were finished per the current design. It cited an earlier independent review of the project that identified a series of design and construction flaws.

Although Flatiron/Dragados had initially questioned why Texas DOT allowed so much of the bridge to be built even though it had identified problems much earlier, in the Aug. 28 letter the contractors committed “to do whatever needs to be done” to get the project done. The joint venture has proposed solutions to the safety issues and the Texas DOT is currently reviewing them. 

“FDLLC will, at its expense, provide designs and install the items of work that resolves the concerns raised by IBT in their reports,” the contractors’ letter reads. “FDLLC is ready, willing and able to act upon IBT’s conclusions and do what is necessary to satisfy TxDOT that our revised designs in fact accomplish that result.”

What’s next?

The project involves building about 6.5 miles of roadway on U.S. 181, which spans the Corpus Christi Ship Channel off of the Gulf of Mexico. The old Harbor Bridge has safety issues connected to a lack of a shoulder, steep grade and reverse curve, and sees a crash rate above the state average. The new span was supposed to open by 2020 but was pushed to 2024, and Texas DOT has not given a new estimated open date.

In the release, Texas DOT said it remains committed to ensuring that the project is safe and wants to move work forward with minimal delay.

“In coming weeks, TxDOT expects to continue conversations with FDLLC and ACS Group to define a path forward to resolve and cure the safety issues identified and documented by TXDOT, our consultants and our independent reviewers,” the press release said.

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