The notice of default gives Flatiron/Dragados LLC (FDLLC) 15 days to present a plan to correct what TxDOT said are identified deficiencies. “If FDLLC fails to adequately address the deficiencies in this timeframe, TxDOT will issue a formal default and replace FDLLC as the contractor on the project,” said the client.

TxDOT executive director Marc Williams said: “Flatiron/Dragados has refused to acknowledge the safety issues that have been identified or taken any steps to correct them. This is unacceptable and places TxDOT in the unfortunate position of having to provide Flatiron/Dragados with a notice of default.”

TxDOT hired Systra International Bridge Technologies (IBT) in 2020 to provide a third-party review of the bridge design.

TxDOT said that the safety concerns centre around design issues, which include the foundations, load and weight capacity, structure, and the future stability of the main cable-stayed bridge. It added that the IBT independent reports confirmed TxDOT’s safety concerns and are available for public viewing.

TxDOT directed FDLLC to pause construction in July (link opens in new tab).  

Copies of letters and reports have been made available for public viewing. In a letter to TxDOT dated 4 August, FDLLC project manager Keith Armstrong said: “As FDLLC has explained, there are no Developer Defaults. The design works and is fully compliant with the terms of the CDA [comprehensive development agreement].”

He went on to say that FDLLC “has been more than reasonable in responding to TxDOT’s purported concerns”. He added: “Notably, IBT sent TxDOT a copy of an initial report on or around January 8, 2021 that raised similar design issues to those TxDOT raises now. If TxDOT was concerned by IBT’s initial report, it should have raised those concerns to FDLLC and Arup-CFC back in early 2021. Inexplicably, TxDOT chose not to do so.

“Despite the fact that TxDOT had IBT’s initial report alleging significant design defects in 2021 that are substantially the same issues TxDOT has used to recently suspend construction, TxDOT allowed ArupCFC to continue to design and FDLLC to continue construction of the foundations, footings, tower legs, and the precast segments.”

He added that, while certificates of compliance do reference TxDOT’s June 10 and June 28 letters, those letters provided TxDOT’s explicit consent for FDLLC to progress construction.

“It was not until April 29, 2022, eight months after construction recommenced and days before the Main Disputes hearing, that TxDOT first provided IBT’s latest report. Even then, however, TxDOT failed to provide IBT’s assumptions about the forces in the stay cables and the bearing reaction combinations, as well as its calculated load combinations and demands in the tower legs and reactions in the shaft. FDLLC and Arup-CFC could not meaningfully review IBT’s conclusions without that information. For reasons unexplained, TxDOT did not provide that information until July 19th, after TxDOT suspended the work, and after FDLLC sent its letter in response. Notably, the issues IBT raised about the foundation capacity and the delta frames in its April 2022 report are largely unchanged from its initial January 2021 report. TxDOT’s decision not to disclose IBT’s work on the project; its decision not to disclose IBT’s initial report; and its decision to wait three-month to provide necessary data relating to IBT’s April 2022 report are not consistent with current claims of urgency.”

Armstrong said that TxDOT is insisting that, even if FDLLC has a genuine belief that IBT’s assertion of an element of design is defective is not correct, FDLLC must accept the incorrect IBT assertion in order to discuss the matter. “This position is not conducive to a resolution. While FDLLC’s thorough engineering review by its designers and third parties has not found any of IBT’s assertions of defects to be correct, FDLLC has been and continues to be willing (indeed, has sought) to engage in a detailed and full engineering dialogue with TxDOT and IBT, while also trying to minimise, to the extent possible, the impacts to the project schedule.”

He concluded: “To be clear, FDLLC stands ready and willing to discuss a plan to move the project forward and complete the work.”

 TxDOT responded to the letter in a reply sent last week. Corpus Christi district project manager Joseph Briones discussed matters including additional information that FDLLC believes IBT needed, items of non-conforming work and timings of IBT’s independent report in relation to FDLLC's design. Figg Bridge Engineers had originally been FDLLC's designer for the bridge, but its role was terminated by TxDOT because of its role as engineer for a footbridge that had collapsed in Miami. Arup-CFC took over as designer.