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Port responds to likely delay for new Harbor Bridge

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Posted at 7:29 PM, Nov 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-19 21:23:48-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The entity that stands to gain the most from the construction of the new Harbor Bridge responded Tuesday to an update on the project, following the suspension of all design activities last week.

Port of Corpus Christi Commission Chairman Charles Zahn said the bridge's safety is paramount.

"To look at a project this big that affects so many people -- not only in the Coastal Bend, but throughout Texas -- make sure it's being built in a safe and sound manner."

The Texas Department of Transportation announced Thursday that it was suspending design activities following the release of the final report from the National Transportation Safety Board concerning a deadly pedestrian-bridge collapse at Florida International University. The report found several companies liable for the collapse, and one of them -- The FIGG Bridge Group -- is involved in designing the new Harbor Bridge.

Yesterday, TxDOT gave a report on the project to State Rep. Todd Hunter and staff members from the offices of two other lawmakers from the Coastal Bend at Hunter's office at the state Capitol in Austin. The agency's executive director, James Bass, had a number of updates, including that engineers had tested bridge components that already are built. Bass said that they were safe, and in good condition.

"If they have checked the existing design, and they've been building according to that design, and they've determined that that design is in fact safe, then I'm very satisfied with that," Zahn said.

Bass said that construction on already-designed and approved plans will continue. Future plans will be reviewed over the next 30 days, and that could delay the construction process.

Zahn didn't seem concerned about that.

"The delay that they have to ensure that, in the future, what's going to be built will be safe also is satisfactory to me," he said.

Building a new, taller Harbor Bridge isn't the only measure necessary for the port to eventually accommodate the world's largest ships.

Dredging the Corpus Christi Ship Channel also is required and is underway. The port also plans to build a new administration building, and the plans call for the parking lot to go where part of the current Harbor Bridge sits.

Zahn doesn't think stopping the design process will throw off completion of those projects.

"To date, right now, we're still on schedule, and it won't have any adverse effect on us," he said.