The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has agreed to pay $400 million to builders of the Harbor Bridge in Corpus Christi, which has been plagued with ongoing disputes and delays.
The settlement with Flatiron/Dragados LLC, announced this month, will resolve disagreements over permit costs, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation and the agency’s decision to replace the engineer of record.
Construction on the 1,661-foot concrete-segment cable-stayed bridge began in 2016 but was delayed in 2019 after TxDOT questioned its design.
TxDOT served a notice of default on the project in August 2022. In a letter dated that same month, the agency warned the new span had design flaws so significant” the bridge would collapse under certain load conditions” if completed under the existing design.
The settlement withdraws the notice of default and acknowledges that all safety concerns have been addressed.
The project, which will now cost $1.2 billion, will create the longest bridge of its kind in the United States. It will include three lanes in each direction with a median barrier, shoulders and a bicycle and pedestrian shared-use path. The project also includes reconstructing about 2.6 miles of interstate and connecting roadways. After the new bridge is completed in 2025, the existing span will be demolished.
The settlement will be funded with unallocated state highway funds. In its announcement, TxDOT said the expenditure will not affect current or future projects. Local entities will incur no additional cost. The City of Corpus Christi agreed to contribute $21 million to the cost of the bridge. The Port of Corpus Christi added $15 million.
When the original Harbor Bridge was opened in 1959, it was the largest project ever completed by the state’s transportation department. The six-lane steel-truss bridge, with a 138-foot clearance, replaced the original drawbridge added when the port opened in 1926.
When the Harbor Bridge replacement was announced eight years ago, TxDOT promised no disruption to port traffic. Five years of delay, however, has delayed the port’s ability to accommodate larger vessels.
The Port of Corpus Christi is the largest port in the United States, based on total revenue tonnage, and the nation’s largest energy export gateway. During the third quarter of 2023, the port moved more 50 million tons of goods, a port record. Lead commodities include crude oil, refined petroleum products and liquified natural gas.