Arup and Carlos Fernandez Casado SL (CFC), previously partners of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Bridge in New Ross, Ireland, have been named as new engineers on the ongoing New Harbor Bridge project in Corpus Christi, Texas.
In a Caller Times press release, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) highlighted “more than seven decades of corporate experience solving design and construction problems, including involvement in more than 50 cable-stayed bridge structures.”
The news comes after all new construction work on the main section of the bridge was halted in November 2019. FIGG Bridge Engineering, the original engineer on the project, was fired in January at the request of TxDOT due to concerns about the company’s involvement with the fatal pedestrian bridge collapse in March 2018 at Florida International University in Miami.
FIGG pushed back the decision and denied any error in the collapse of the bridge at the FIU. A January statement said a press release from TxDOT announcing that the company had been fired from the New Harbor Bridge project was “shocked”.
“FIGG has strongly disputed the results of the NTSB investigation,” said a statement from the Tallahassee-based company founded by the late, well-known civil engineer Eugene Figg in January. “FIGG hired Wiss, Janney and Elstner Associates Inc. (WJE), the country’s premier forensic scientist, to investigate the Florida accident. WJE’s detailed investigations, in-depth analysis and physical tests show that the faulty construction of the Florida Bridge – which FIGG was not involved in – was responsible for the collapse, not its design. “
Project developer Flatiron / Dragados LLC said at the time that a newly hired engineer – now known as Arup-CFC – would review the design work that FIGG had completed. As reported by Engineering News-Record, no significant changes to the original bridge design are expected.
Kick-off in 2016 will be the massive $ 930 million infrastructure venture (a new cost estimate has yet to be announced and is likely higher), which is aging due to the arch bridge that has been US 181 over the Corpus Christi since the 1950s Ship Canal will be replaced with a modern cable-stayed bridge – it was originally planned to be packed up and opened to traffic this summer. That date has since been postponed to 2021 and 2023. In June, Lynn Allison, public information manager for Flatiron / Dragados LLC, said completion was “a few years away”.
When finally completed, Corpus Christi New Harbor Bridge will be both the longest cable-stayed bridge in the United States and the tallest structure in South Texas, with a main span of 1,661 feet and a main tower of 538 feet. Currently, the John James Audubon Bride in southern Louisiana is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the United States. It was completed in 2011 and has a main span that spans the Mississippi. (A proposed cable-stayed bridge designed by AECOM to connect Detroit to Windsor, Ontario is expected to be the longest in North America.)
Despite the restructuring of the engineering team and the increasingly distant completion date, construction work for the project is already well underway, with key elements outside the span itself, including the approach of the bridge, coming together in recent months.
And similar to other major infrastructure projects, the coronavirus pandemic has helped work on the bridge to progress faster than expected due to a dramatic drop in traffic.
“Our COVID-19 silver lining is reduced traffic over the past few months,” Corpus Christi Business News Allison reported during a United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce Infrastructure Committee meeting held on Zoom in June. “It really helped us move this project forward.”
The New Harbor Bridge has an expected lifespan of 170 years.