Del. gets $5.2M in IR bridge settlement

Del. gets $5.2M in IR bridge settlement

Source: http://www.delmarvanow.com, October 27, 2013
By: Beth Miller

The state Department of Transportation announced Friday it had reached settlement with two engineering firms it sued for losses in an ill-fated Indian River Inlet bridge project that was mired in problems for years.

Delaware will get $5.25 million from the two firms — $5 million from MACTEC, a Georgia firm which has since been acquired by London-based AMEC, and $250,000 from Florida-based Figg Engineering — with both companies denying responsibility for the problems that stretch back almost a decade.

In an email Friday evening, Alan Phipps, senior vice president and director of operations at Figg, said his firm made a “token” contribution to the settlement because MACTEC’s work was done under contract with Figg.

AMEC officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

The state claimed $19.6 million in damages in its suit against the firms, filed in Superior Court in 2011.

The case was to go to trial in May 2014. Settlement terms require the money to be applied to projects for which federal money may be used, according to the state release.

According to News Journal and state archives, the lawsuit rose out of significant problems discovered in October 2007 after work had begun on a bridge to replace the original span, built in 1965.

The original bridge was in jeopardy from tides that scoured the supports set in bedrock beneath the surface of the water.

MACTEC was to be paid up to $525,000 under an engineering and design contract for testing the soil and the depth of the supporting clay and its geotechnical summary report from April 2005 provided design and construction recommendations for how to build the approaches in light of soil stability issues and projected settling.

The dirt, gravel and other material for the approaches to the new bridge began settling soon after it was mounded up. As the embankments began shifting westward, state and federal officials, along with a third-party consultant reviewed MACTEC’s findings, and the design plans for the bridge were scrapped.

DelDOT canceled the rest of a $34 million construction contract, with $21 million already spent, then rebid the project in 2008 for an entirely new — and much more expensive — bridge.

The substitute $150 million Charles W. Cullen bridge was completed last year and the 1965 span has been dismantled, with only its “piers” remaining below the water surface, according to DelDOT spokesman Geoff Sundstrom.

The settlement is “the end of the saga,” Sundstrom said. “The new bridge is a beautiful structure, a signature piece of architecture in the First State.”

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