Flatiron-Dragados JV to build Corpus Christi bridge

The Texas Transportation Commission gave the go ahead last week for a Flatiron/Dragados joint venture to begin work on Corpus Christi’s roughly $898 million Harbor Bridge replacement project.

After almost 15 years of project planning, the Texas Transportation Commission has selected Flatiron/Dragados to construct and maintain a new US 181 Harbor Bridge in Corpus Christi. 

The central motivation for the replacement of the aging Harbor Bridge stemmed from escalating maintenance costs, according to a Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) release, but the project also coincides with the need to expand access to the Port of Corpus Christi in order to accommodate Panamax ships.

“The Harbor Bridge replacement project signifies a dynamic new era for Corpus Christi, the Coastal Bend and all of Texas,” said TxDOT Executive Director Joe Walker. “By replacing the existing span, which was built in the 1950s, this new bridge will make a positive contribution to commerce, public safety and transportation for decades to come.”

The current 2.25-mile long Harbor Bridge was averaging 45,000 to 50,000 vehicles per day as of 2011.

While TxDOT originally estimated that the bridge replacement would cost approximately $700 million, the latest total investment estimate is $898 million, according to an agency representative. The contract calls for demolition of the existing bridge, followed by design, construction, finance, and 25-year maintenance of the replacement structure. 

When completed, the Harbor Bridge will be the longest cable-stayed bridge in the US. Features are reported to include a flatter bridge grade, new lighting and other safety enhancements, and a new interchange joining US 181, I-37 and the Crosstown Expressway with a high-speed, direct connection. 

There will be three lanes for traffic traveling in each direction, a shared-use hike-and-bike path, and full-width shoulders, the latter of which will enhance the bridge's designation as a hurricane evacuation route along with other safety implications. 

The new bridge will also feature 205 feet of additional clearance as compared to the existing structure – enough to allow Panamax ships to enter and leave the port. 

The release noted that TxDOT has worked closely with local communities to design an “iconic” bridge, calling it “a hallmark to be proud of for many years to come”.

In response to the news of the selection, Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez said, “As Mayor of the City of Corpus Christi, I am pleased with the Texas Transportation Commission's actions to bring what was once considered a pipe dream one step closer to reality. In addition to addressing the safety issues, the new Harbor Bridge will be an economic game-changer for the Coastal Bend region for generations to come.”

Flatiron/Dragados, JV, is a consortium formed by Flatiron Constructors and Dragados USA to build the Harbor Bridge project, and was one of four shortlisted firms in the running for the contract up until the announcement was made. 

Competing firms included one group named Harbor Bridge Constructors led by Walsh Infrastructure, Harbor Bridge Partners, which included Kiewit Development Company and Kiewit Infrastructure South, and yet another group named Harbor Bridge Constructors which included Traylor Bros. and Zachry Construction.

Flatiron and Dragados worked together on several infrastructure projects in the past, and both have extensive bridge development experience. 

If all goes according to plan during the upcoming negotiations between TxDOT and the consortium, commercial close is expected in the fall, with construction to begin on the project late this year or early in the next, and TxDOT currently estimates that work will wrap up approximately five years after groundbreaking.