The new Margaret McDermott hike and bike bridges supported by big arches beside the new Interstate 30 bridge in Dallas were supposed to open last year. But a dispute between the city, the contractor, engineers and the Texas Department of Transportation has the bridges barricaded with "danger" signs and no opening date in sight.
Constituents of Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs wanted answers about the delay, so he requested records that detail reasons. The records show the bridges have not passed final engineering tests.
"I'm grateful it's not open, because there is a problem with some of the systems on the bridge, so we don't want it open yet," Griggs said. "These documents show a history going back over a year of some parts showing fatigue and failure."
Dallas Trinity Watershed Manager Sarah Standifer said it is just routine completion of a big project.
"We have hired an engineering firm to work on behalf of the city. That engineering firm is making sure that what we have paid for and the citizens have asked for, they're going to get," she said.
The project of more than $100 million was a compromise from a much more expensive design by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava with arches that were to support the entire I-30 bridge replacement.
The option of lower cost hike and bike suspension bridges beside the standard highway bridge also underwent additional "value engineering" to further reduce the cost by $3 million, the records show.
The documents indicate that cost-cutting also eliminated some cable testing that was to be included to save $30,000.
"It was only $30,000, but it was an important test of cable fatigue and utilization," Griggs said. "The parties they throw on these bridges when they open them cost more than $30,000."
Standifer said those tests and more were restored in the project.
"You want us to do it the right way and be 100 percent what you thought you were getting, so we're in that process now," she said.
Blue tape on the bridge is not an indication of cracks, as some people thought, only markers for paint touch-up the city expects the contractor to complete before leaving the job, according to Standifer.
"It is a safe bridge. Our engineer of record is on the record saying it is safe. You can use it when the construction is complete. It can open at that point," she said.
Griggs said the bridge is an important piece in the growing Dallas trail network.
"I want it fixed as soon as possible. A lot of private donations as well as tax money went into this bridge," he said.
A letter to Standifer Tuesday from the Texas Department of Transportation disputes some previous correspondence with from the city, the engineer and Calatrava. The letter repeated prior statements by TxDOT that the city of Dallas would be responsible for additional expenses.
Standifer said the city has paid around $225,000 in cost overruns so far and there may be more before the hike and bike bridges open.