TX Settles with Harbor Bridge Developer
The Texas Department of Transportation has reportedly reached an agreement with developer Flatiron/Dragados LLC (FDLLC) for the New Harbor Bridge Project, settling previous outstanding disputes and damage claims.
According to a release from the department, the Notice of Default previously issued by TxDOT is now expected to be removed while it closes out the claims for $400 million, including the ending of disputes back in 2016.
Beginning in 2015, joint venture Flatiron/Dragados LLC was chosen by TxDOT for the design-build contract for the new Harbor Bridge.
The new bridge was slated to carry U.S. Route 181 across the Corpus Christi Ship Channel off Corpus Christi Bay, replacing the current Harbor Bridge, a through arch bridge that was built in 1959. Once completed, the bridge will be the longest cable-stayed bridge in the United States. According to TxDOT at the time, the total cost of the project—including the construction of the new bridge and the demolition of the current one—would be approximately $802.9 million.
Settlement reached between developer of the New Harbor Bridge, and the Texas Department of Transportation. https://t.co/2jBgv3bZ2K— KRIS 6 News (@KRIS6News) October 12, 2023
In March 2017, construction activities began on the project, and by February 2019, crews had completed concrete placement on the first lift of the south tower.
The following month, Flatiron/Dragados announced that the project would likely not meet its April 2020 completion deadline. However, the first span had been put into place on the north side of the ship channel, marking a significant milestone. Company officials attributed the delay to weather conditions and permitting issues.
In November 2019, TxDOT declared the suspension of design work for the Harbor Bridge. This announcement arrived less than a month after the National Transportation Safety Board released its findings related to the Florida International University bridge collapse of 2018, revealing that the probable cause was related to load and capacity calculation errors made by the Harbor Bridge project’s designer, FIGG Bridge Engineers Inc.
Consequently, at the beginning of 2020, TxDOT requested that Flatiron/Dragados LLC replace FIGG. FIGG had overseen designs for the Harbor Bridge’s main spans—which are included in the cable-supported section of the bridge that will cross the Corpus Christi Ship Channel.
In July of last year, TxDOT halted construction on the new span due to safety concerns, only impacting construction regarding the new cable-stayed portion of the project. In a letter released to the public, which dated the same day construction was halted, TxDOT wrote to Flatiron/Dragados Project Manager Keith Armstrong in response to the upcoming installation of delta frames and the suspension of work over safety issues.
Earlier in 2022, the department had consulted bridge design and engineering service International Bridge Technologies to independently review the designs. While IBT found “numerous technical findings and observations” to be addressed, the department explained that the five areas of primary concern include:
Then, in November 2022, work partially resumed on the bridge as a design fix for the delta frames was approved by the project’s engineer of record. The Caller Times reported that, as of October of that year, the north approach was 81% complete and the south approach was 87% complete. Roadworks for the north and south approaches were 91% and 84% complete, respectively, and utilities were at 95%.
In February, it was reported that the foundation footing was going up for the bridge to support the structure of the tower that will hold the cables and the bridge deck.
Finally, in March, officials from the Texas Department of Transportation provided an update on the project, noting that four of the five design concerns had been resolved. Flatiron/Dragados also noted that the project is expected to exceed its almost $1 billion budget.
Discussions between TxDOT engineers, IBT engineers and the project’s engineer of record, Arup-CFC, were still ongoing, said Valente Olivarez Jr., TxDOT's Corpus Christi District engineer, with final solutions anticipated in the following weeks.
The new settlement payments are now reportedly to be made in installments with “performance-based milestone payments,” based on the completion of major phases of the work. One example of these milestones is the opening of the Harbor Bridge by spring 2025.
TxDOT’s release states that costs connected to these claims are not related to the design concerns identified by the department and confirmed by an independent review, reportedly leading to the department’s Notice of Default in August 2022.
Additionally, FDLLC states that it will continue to keep its promise to absorb all costs related to mitigation of the design concerns.
“Legal contract disputes for a complex project of this magnitude can be costly and drawn out. This settlement eliminates years of litigation and clears the path for work to continue to progress safely and uninterrupted on the new bridge,” said TxDOT Corpus Christi District Engineer Valente Olivarez Jr.
Local entities will not incur any additional project costs, stated TxDOT.
TxDOT adds that its management of the project remains unchanged. The department states that it plans to ensure the bridge meets all safety and construction standards and can be an important asset to the public.
“Now that FDLLC has demonstrated its ability to rectify design concerns to TxDOT’s satisfaction, at FDLLC’s cost, and is also fulfilling its commitment to working cooperatively with TxDOT staff, TxDOT believes it is appropriate to withdraw the notice of default issued against FDLLC,” Olivarez said.