Dallas city staff knew in 2016 that the Margaret McDermott bridge’s pedestrian features had engineering flaws, but they didn’t disclose that to the public or City Council members.
The $115-million bridge, which is part of Interstate 30, has pedestrian lanes on either side — the north side for walkers and the south side for bikes. They were supposed to be open this past summer.
The lanes look finished, but there are signs warning against trespassing on the bridge.
When we asked recently why the lanes hadn’t opened, City of Dallas Trinity Watershed Management spokeswoman Judy Schmidt replied, “It is nice to hear from you. There are still some ongoing items to be completed. We continue to work with TxDOT and as soon as we have a date, we will be happy to share it.”
What that office didn’t tell me or anyone outside the project is that some of the bridge’s steel components had cracked.
City Councilman Scott Griggs provided documents that he uncovered about the project to the Dallas Observer.
That correspondence reveals that three steel rods used to adjust cables that hold up the bridge’s pedestrian deck cracked in the spring of 2016.
Jim Schutze reports that the rods were never tested to see if they could withstand high winds, and that they “have since been stiffened with a system of mechanical Band-Aids called dampers.”
The city skipped safety testing to save money, the documents reveal.
From the Observer story:
In a Sept. 22, 2016, letter to the Texas Department of Transportation, a representative of Huitt-Zollars, the supervising engineering firm for the project, tells TxDOT that the city of Dallas and the construction contractor had agreed in contract negotiations to skip a key stress test of the cables as a form of “value-engineering options (VE).” VE means saving money.
Skipping that testing saved only $30,000.