Contractors for the $100-million I-40 White River bridge replacement project in Arkansas have agreed to replace a pier cap that state highway officials claim may have been structurally compromised during a lightning-interrupted concrete pour. In acceding to the state’s wishes, however, the joint venture of Parsons and CJ Mahan Construction plans to seek reimbursement for the additional work, which it has insisted is unnecessary.

The Arkansas Dept. of Transportation rejected the August 2019 nighttime pour for the 120-foot-long pier cap, asserting that a 2-1/2 hour interruption during a thunderstorm created the potential of a cold joint. The agency also questioned Parsons/Mahan’s decision to initiate the pour, given multiple predictions for threatening weather in the area that night.

In addition to citing extensive analyses and third-party inspections verifying the pier cap’s structural integrity, Parsons/Mahan said those forecasts called for no more than a 30% chance of precipitation, with severe weather expected to remain north of the project site. The contractors also claim that because an ARDOT inspector participated in the decision to proceed with the pour, as well as “the means and methods to be employed to re-start the pour,” the agency should bear the cost of replacement, estimated to cost $11 million.

Since Parsons/Mahan was awarded the bridge contract in November 2016, the project has been plagued by high-water delays, the result of heavy precipitation and releases from an upstream Corps of Engineers dam. ARDOT’s decision not to suspend the project in many of those instances have already resulted in the joint venture filing several claims with the Arkansas Claims Commission, most of which seek reimbursement for equipment rental costs and other financial impacts.

ARDOT had threatened to begin contract default proceedings had Parsons/Mahan not consented to replace the pier cap. But with the rain-swollen White River still well above levels deemed safe, it may be several weeks before that work gets underway.