Contractor claims bridges on the Legacy Parkway may be unsafe

Build Inc. believes spans will not hold up in an earthquake; UDOT accused of not making necessary changes

September 27, 2010

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) continues to come under fire for its actions.

A few days after it was revealed that the agency paid $13 million to a contractor that finished second on a bid, a bridge builder is claiming UDOT moved forward with flawed plans on the Legacy Parkway.

Build Inc. drove pilings for bridge foundations on five bridges on the Legacy project, and co-owner Fred Stromness said the spans could collapse during an earthquake. Stromness claimed it was impossible to hammer hollow pilings to the depths required without twisting the metal. Normally, according to Stromness, it takes about 125 blows to drive a piling 1 ft, but on the Legacy project it was taking two to three times more.

Putting UDOT in a panic mode during the job was a string of environmental lawsuits that stopped construction. The agency eventually replaced the original designer, but maintained possession of the designs. Stromness claimed the first designer refused to accept liability if any changes were made, and UDOT refused to alter plans even after flaws were discovered.

Build Inc. recommended using pilings with thicker external steel, but UDOT rejected the idea due to increased costs.

“We have been working with Build Inc. for more than a year on this,” said UDOT spokesperson Tania Mashburn in a statement acquired by The Salt Lake Tribune. “UDOT believes that the claims are unfounded and that the dispute is best handled by the court.”