Editor’s note: This story was updated to add a statement from Flatiron/Dragados, LLC on the partial halt by TxDOT to construction on the Harbor Bridge project.
The Texas Department of Transportation announced Friday it suspended construction on a key part of Corpus Christi’s new Harbor Bridge due to safety concerns, a decision that could lead to further delays and uncertainty on whether the project will meet its mid-to-late 2024 completion timeline.
TxDOT engineers previously raised concerns about “certain elements” of the bridge structure that, if construction continued, could become safety issues, according to the news release. The state agency requested Flatiron/Dragados, LLC, the company responsible for constructing the bridge and contracting the design firm reviewing the bridge, Arup and CFC, resolve the issues before continuing work.
The halt pertains solely to the construction of the main span and the cable-stayed bridge portion, Ricky Dailey, a TxDOT spokesman, told the Caller-Times. He said those concerns were brought to the attention of Flatiron/Dragados, which, to date, has been paid about $774 million for the project.
“We work hard to maintain productive relationships with all of our partners to deliver projects efficiently,” TxDOT Chief Engineer Lance Simmons said in the release. “And we cannot compromise on safety. We have been transparent and direct in sharing our concerns with FDLLC as well as our expectations on addressing these safety issues.”
Lynn Allison, a spokeswoman for Flatiron/Dragados, declined to comment Friday on the halt by TxDOT, saying the TxDOT news release had not been anticipated and the developers were working on an official statement.
On Saturday, the joint venture provided a statement to the Caller-Times stating the compaines were “confident in the safety and durability of the bridge as designed” and would continue work with TxDOT.
“FDLLC hired some of the most experienced and prestigious designers of signature cable-stayed bridges in the world,” the statement read. “FDLLC will continue to meet its contractual obligations and work in good faith with TxDOT.”
Allision said construction unrelated to the spans — including road work and work on the north and south approaches — will continue and are not affected by the halt. The main spans for the new bridge comprise roughly one-eighth of the project, she said.
Allison and Daily said it was unclear Friday if the halt would push back the project’s 2024 competition date.
“It’s hard to say because it just depends on how the work progresses from here,” Dailey said. “So it’s a little early to give you a neat timeline on the completion date.”
Construction on the $930 million bridge began in August 2016. Earlier this year, Flatiron/Dragados, LLC, estimated the project to be completed and open for traffic by the summer of 2024.
“We share the public’s interest in seeing the new Harbor Bridge completed, as well as their expectation that safety is our top priority,” Simmons said in the release. “We appreciate the public’s patience. Once complete, we know this important project will last generations and safely carry millions of users.”
TxDOT, in the news release, said the current Harbor Bridge is inspected annually and remains structurally sound. Demolition of the old bridge will begin immediately after the new one is finished.
The Friday news release comes days after the Caller-Times sent inquiries to Flatiron/Dragados concerning the construction delays and generalities about the project. The newspaper also filed open records requests with TxDOT on those subjects, seeking copies of service contracts related to the project.
Construction on the multi-million-dollar project has been paused before.
In 2019, TxDOT suspended design work on the bridge and dismissed then-designer FIGG Bridge Engineers Inc, which was the subject of a National Transportation Safety Board report critical of the firm’s work on a Florida pedestrian bridge that collapsed in March 2018. Six people died. (FIGG pushed back on the report, pointing to the construction of the bridge — not its design — as a contributing factor).