Harbor Bridge Completion Planned for 2025
The Texas Department of Transportation recently announced that work on the Harbor Bridge in Corpus Christi, Texas, will move forward with a completion date set for 2025, after design flaws and a legal dispute had stalled construction.
The announcement comes after TxDOT reached a settlement in October over outstanding disputes and damage claims with project developer Flatiron/Dragados LLC (FDLLC).
Beginning in 2015, joint venture FDLLC was chosen by TxDOT for the design-build contract for the new Harbor Bridge.
The new bridge is 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.
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, FDLLC 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 FDLLC 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 FDLLC 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.
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. FDLLC also noted that the project is expected to exceed its almost $1 billion budget.
Finally, in October, TxDOT and FDLLC reached an agreement settling previous outstanding disputes and damage claims, with new payments scheduled 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 stated that costs connected to these claims were 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 stated that it would continue to keep its promise to absorb all costs related to mitigation of the design concerns. Local entities would not incur any additional project costs, stated TxDOT.
TxDOT added that its management of the project remained unchanged. The department stated that it planned to ensure the bridge meets all safety and construction standards and can be an important asset to the public.
According to a report from Construction Equipment Guide, before the project was put on pause, monthly construction reports had been sent out to give updates about the large project.
"Activity on the HBP is moving at an impressive pace in 2023," stated one status report. "Transporting the massive 100-plus ton segments from our precast yard in Robstown to the approach viaducts and pylons involves significant planning."
This transportation process had reportedly included:
According to the report, the North approach bridge spans were also recently finished, following the installation of the final approach segment, which was transported from the Pre-Cast Yard (PCY) to its new location on North Beach.
"The superstructure, or bridge deck, is an engineering marvel featuring 21 northbound and 21 southbound spans, each spanning 180 to 200 feet and secured with end-to-end post-tensioning," stated one report on the work.
"Longer typical span lengths significantly reduced the number of piers required for the substructure, resulting in a less obtrusive approach bridge footprint. The NAB boasts an impressive layout with 420 northbound lane segments, each measuring 69 feet wide, to accommodate a spacious 10-foot wide shared-use path, two 10-foot wide shoulders, and three 13-foot wide mainlanes.”
Over 450 workers and support personnel are reportedly working at the site, along with engineers and specialists. Reports state that the work is being monitored to ensure that each step is done correctly and that materials are delivered to job sites efficiently.
"Safety and construction excellence are the core principles of our joint venture companies and partners. We are grateful for this opportunity and look forward to showcasing and opening the new Harbor Bridge for the Coastal Bend community in 2025," said Lynn Allison, Harbor Bridge Project public information manager.
FDLLC stated that ensuring that equipment is in good shape is important, so the team has full time and rotating mechanics working to help make certain that repairs are done quickly, and that maintenance is completed on schedule.
"Wear and tear issues range from impacts of operating in a coastal environment to relocating equipment around the jobsite are addressed immediately," Allison added. "We have a dedicated yard for mechanics to perform routine maintenance and to repair/replace parts as needed. We perform daily/monthly/annual inspections to ensure operational guidelines are followed."
Local and regional dealerships are also reportedly aiding in the construction effort.
"We utilize local and regional resources when available," said Allison. "Our team of field engineers and superintendents work closely with subcontractors and vendors to coordinate forecasted needs."