And just when you thought the Morrison Bridge fiasco in Portland, Ore., was finally behind us, the brand-new bridge deck starts falling apart. Yes, the very same environmentally friendly fiber-reinforced polymer bridge deck lauded for its durability and lightweight nature that was allowing Multnomah County officials to keep the movable bridge alive and well.
Finished just over a year ago for around $6 million, the already troubled project now has lawsuits flying all around as the 17,000 sq ft of 50-in-thick bridge deck from Durham, N.C.-based ZellComp has started cracking and coming unscrewed.
When Ridgefield, Wash.-based Conway Construction Company signed on for the project to replace the worn and failing 1956 steel bridge deck and portions of the steel stringers, they didn’t know the headaches to ensue.
Not only did Conway get into trouble for debris spilled into the Willamette River below during construction, but arguments about how to handle the situation sat the project on hold in 2011 for two months. With lawsuits claiming Conway still owes subcontractors money on the project, the Washington company has itself filed suit against the decking manufacturer and supplier for breach of warranty, asking for $1.3 million. And the county has sued everyone involved too, looking for a new deck that actually works.
But this isn’t the first time ZellComp’s FRP deck has gone on a Portland bridge, as the nearby Broadway Bridge received the new decking in 2005, without any mishap.
Which leads to more questions for Conway, since the county’s suit claims the 60,000 screws weren’t properly fastened and that the decking was damaged during installation. Of course, the corrosion resistant claims of ZellComp aren’t exactly holding water right now either, according to the suit.
With ZellComp’s national reputation on the line, Conway struggling to maintain control on the Morrison project and a public with its patience already worn thin due to the extra delays during construction, the end result of the Morrison Bridge project may not have a happy ending.
Tim Newcomb is Engineering News-Record’s Pacific Northwest contributor. He also writes for TIME, Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated and more. You can follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb or visit his website here.