A $400-million settlement was reached between the Texas Dept. of Transportation and general contractor Flatiron/Dragados over Corpus Christi’s Harbor Bridge in mid-October. The accord ends all disagreements and damage claims concerning the cable-stayed bridge, a project halted multiple times.
The six-lane span has been plagued with issues since construction started in 2016, and cost overruns have pushed the price from $806 million to $1.2 billion. If completed within the new time frame, the bridge will still be five years behind schedule.
Under the settlement, TxDOT will close out claims related to disagreements on permit costs, right-of-way acquisition, COVID-19-related issues and the replacement of the engineer-of-record, FIGG Bridge Engineers, said Robert Peckar, Flatiron/Dragados' attorney, during the negotiations. In July 2022, Arup and Carlos Fernandez Casado SL were named as engineers.
The settlement also removes the previously issued Notice of Default that TxDOT slapped against the joint venture in August 2022, over five design issues. Peckar explained the default notice shut down the project for more than a year.
A TxDOT press release states the settlement covers claimed damages, but not those associated to unrelated design concerns.
In the release, TxDOT said the settlement will avert additional delays to a project already years behind schedule. “Legal contract disputes for a complex project of this magnitude can be costly and drawn out. This settlement eliminates years of litigation and clears the path for work to continue to progress safely and uninterrupted on the new bridge,” said TxDOT Corpus Christi District Engineer Valente Olivarez Jr. in the release.
Peckar and TxDOT said settlement payment will be made in monthly installments, which includes performance-based milestone payments. One major milestone is the planned spring 2025 opening.
In 2019, construction was halted when TxDOT questioned its design after the 2018 collapse of a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University. Both that bridge and the Harbor Bridge were designed by FIGG.
In August 2022, the Notice of Default shuttered the project indefinitely. This shutdown came after TxDOT outlined five safety concerns on the project: foundations, foundation caps, delta frame design, uplift and crane placement.
The report stated “the bridge would collapse under certain load conditions” if completed using the then-current design. As of March 2023, all five of the concerns were addressed to TxDOT's satisfaction.
The current Harbor Bridge is expected to be demolished by the spring of 2026. Opened in 1959, it was designed for a 50-year life span.
This article was updated Oct. 26 to correct some editing errors.