dr martens 1460 brown TxDot Officials Blame Dallas and Calatrava for Trinity River Bridge Problems
Contact Us,Within hours of publication by the Dallas Observer on Tuesday of a story detailing flaws in the unopened Margaret McDermott Bridge over the Trinity River, the Texas Department of Transportation fired off a heated response but not to the Observer.
The three page TxDOT letter sent yesterday, which alleged and incomplete statements, was addressed to and aimed at Sarah Standifer, the Dallas official overseeing the bridge project. The letter pointedly rejects attempts by Standifer and architect Santiago Calatrava to blame the bridge failures on TxDOT construction contractor, and it makes it plain that TxDOT doesn intend to assume the cost of putting things right:
Related StoriesUndisclosed Documents Reveal Flaws in Margaret McDermott Bridge, Preventing OpeningFrom the People Who Brought Us Dallas’ Fake Rapids, Collapsing Concrete TrailsHow the Price Tag of the Margaret McDermott Bridge Increased by 25 Percent Overnight
city of Dallas is responsible for any cost overruns associated with the Margaret McDermott Bridge, states Ceason Clemens, TxDOT project manager for an array of downtown Dallas expressway reconstruction projects.
An Observer story reported yesterday that the pedestrian and bicycle bridge designed by Calatrava, slated to open last summer, still has not been cleared for opening by the supervising engineer because of flaws that include repeated cracking of rods that are part of the cables that hold up the bridge. A trove of documents uncovered by City Council member Scott Griggs, never previously revealed to the full council, shows that Calatrava, Standifer and TxDot have been arguing for two years, sometimes heatedly, regarding blame for the cracked cable parts.
In her letter yesterday to Standifer, Clemens of TxDot says, meetings have been held in an attempt to agree on a path forward. To date, those meetings have not produced a solution. is director of Trinity Watershed Management,
a department of the city tasked some years ago with seeking completion of the failed Trinity toll road project. Standifer, who is not an engineer, only assumed the post of director after longstanding job qualifications requiring the director to be an engineer were amended, dropping that requirement.
letters contain inaccurate and incomplete statements. Ceason Clemens, TxDOTMore sharesProblems that have kept the bridge closed long after its scheduled opening have to do with parts that have failed in high winds. In the stack of correspondence unearthed by Griggs, all sides agree that proper testing of the materials was not carried out as a originally called for in the design specifications and that a crucial element called an adjustment rod was made of thinner material than called for in the original design.
The debate is about who decided to change the testing regime and who was responsible for shifting to thinner, weaker elements. Repeatedly in the correspondence, Calatrava team urges the city to carry out needed testing and even offers to lend the city money for the tests if the city can afford them.
In 2013, when the bridge project was still getting underway, the city discovered it was faced with a $12 million cost overrun. Twin Calatrava arches were to be appended to the sides of a plain vanilla concrete state highway bridge to give it the appearance of being a signature Calatrava cable stayed bridge like ones that wealthy patrons of the project had seen in Spain.
The extra Calatrava arches, which contribute nothing structurally to the bridge but decoration, were slated before the overruns to add $100 million to the cost of the overall project. Taxpayers funded all but $5.5 million of the extra cost. The arches are designed to carry pedestrian and bike lanes on both sides of the concrete highway bridge but are not attached to the highway portion the bridge. Everybody involved says it was somebody else.
In 2013, when the cost overruns began to crop up, city staff members assured the council they would stave off additional costs by pressing TxDOT and its contractor to accept engineering, called VE for short, which amounts, basically, to cutting corners. At one point, city staff bragged to the City Council that it had pushed TxDOT to cut more than $3 million from the cost as VE.
The debate now is not whether some of that VE savings made the pedestrian and bike lane bridges weaker. Everyone agrees it did. That why bridge elements cracked in high winds, and it is why the supervising engineer, Huitt Zollars,
won clear the Calatrava arches as safe and complete. The debate is about whose shoulders the responsibility for the VE decisions should fall upon.