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New Harbor Bridge concerns won't cost taxpayers more money

Posted at 9:41 AM, Aug 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-17 10:41:01-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — With the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) issuing a a Notice of Default to contractor of the new Harbor Bridge, Flatiron/Dragados LLC (FDLLC), more questions arise about the project.

“So moving ahead, safety remains the top priority with TxDOT and we will not compromise with that on the Harbor Bridge project,” said Marc Williams, executive director of TxDOT.

No matter what happens next, Williams confirms any run over costs will not fall back on Corpus Christi or Nueces County. Any needed money will come from the state. To date, $774 million has been spent on the project. It has a budget of $930 million. Williams wasn't able to speculate how much this might cost the state.

In a press conference at the Corpus Christi TxDOT offices, Williams said the department will have due diligence and wait to see if Flatiron/Dragados will respond in their allotted 15 day notice. There will be no search for a future developer until after that 15 days, if there is no response. At that point, Williams said it will be an expedited process to bring a new company in.

“This is also a design-build project," said Williams. "So, there are design efforts that go on simultaneously with construction. We felt like there was ample opportunity for Flatiron to have addressed these issues through the construction process. And we believe there are remedies that can be undertaken, even now.”

Since the summer of 2021, TxDOT said they raised concerns about the safety of the project. Flatiron/Dragado said they will or have addressed those complaints, but they were never done. Over the last several months is when the contractor became less responsive.

"We were assured that the issues would be resolved and we were working with FDLLC to try to do that," said Graham Bettis, TxDOT's director of bridge division. "But, given the concerns we really felt it was important to get a truly independent structural analysis."

What prompted the notice of default was the official declaration from SYSTRA International Bridge Technologies of five elements that needed immediate correcting.

Williams acknowledged there is frustration all around.

"It has been hugely disappointing," he said. "And, it is disappointing to be here and i know it’s disappointing for the people in the region. The people that have to see it everyday. The people on the north shore. That have to live through some of the construction.”

While the waiting game begins, TxDOT is tasked with trying to make the public feel safe again.

“This is why we’re here today," Williams said. "Is to emphasize that important point of how critical safety is for us. And, we’re going to continue as we go through to talk about the design and work on this bridge as we get it corrected.”

And tasked with bringing the project to completion.

"Most importantly, we're going to see this project through to completion," said Williams. "We're committed to that, our commission is committed to that. And, we want to reassure the region that, that is going to be our focus moving forward."

As for the current Harbor Bridge, Bettis said it’s as safe as ever to continue using. The bridge receives regular inspections and has a maintenance project scheduled for later this year.

After the two weeks has passed, whether it is with FDLLC or another developer, the next step is to go over design plans. Then we might have a better idea on how long the project might be set back, how much more it will cost and if there are going to be traffic changes.

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