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Architect Pressed City to Test Failed Cables

Monday, February 12, 2018

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A set of pedestrian and cycle bridges that are part of a long-running signature project in Dallas remain closed due to structural issues, and new reports show that architect Santiago Calatrava tried to get the city to perform cable fatigue testing to address the issue.

The Margaret McDermott Bridge, a set of two arch pedestrian spans on either side of a concrete highway bridge, was set to open last year, but broken cables and concerns about the spans’ stability have kept the bridge closed.

Margaret McDermott Bridge
Dallas Horseshoe Project

The Margaret McDermott Bridge, two steel arch spans surrounding an existing concrete highway bridge, has been delayed in its opening because of cable failures.

While the city of Dallas initially blamed Calatrava, the designer on the $798 million Dallas Horseshoe Project, newly reported correspondence from the construction of the bridge indicates that Calatrava was concerned about the cables and wanted testing done; the city, which oversaw the project, reportedly declined.

About the Project

Dallas Horseshoe, first proposed in the 1990s, was originally supposed to involve three bridges across the Trinity River. The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, the first Calatrava-designed span, opened in 2012, carrying Spur 366 over the river. The Margaret McDermott is the second part of the project, with the dual arch spans surrounding the I-30 bridge. A third bridge plan has since been abandoned.

Controversy has followed the Margaret McDermott project for years; the arch spans were originally proposed for aesthetic reasons, as the I-30 bridge is not structurally dependent on the arches, which some in the local media have referred to as “fake.” The two arch spans are intended to carry pedestrian and cycle traffic, and the main highway bridge does not have pedestrian walkways.

But cables on the first steel arch span, built in 2015, began to fail in 2016, reportedly due to stress from high winds. The second arch went up last year.

The Blame Game

According to the Dallas Observer, a letter from Huitt-Zollars, the engineer of record on the bridge, sent to the Texas Department of Transportation in September 2016 indicates that cable fatigue testing was skipped on the project as a “value-engineering” decision. Huitt-Zollars seemingly laid blame on contractor Pegasus Link Contractors for not using testing data from similar past projects. The Observer reports, though, that no such prior data was available.

The city and TXDOT, according to reports, believed Calatrava was responsible for the issues. The Dallas Morning News reports that Calatrava blamed the contractor for the problems, and had pressed the city to perform cable fatigue testing, even offering to put up $125,000 for tests.

City officials reportedly expect the bridge to open to pedestrian and cycle traffic in March; TXDOT is keeping the contractor onsite until the issues with the bridge’s cables are resolved. According to the Morning News, TXDOT has said that it expects the city of Dallas to pay for cost overruns, about $1 million per month.


Tagged categories: Architects; Bridges; Contractors; Engineers; NA; North America; Quality Control

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