Delaware probes Indian River Inlet Bridge cost

State may attempt to regain money lost on span

News Delaware State News November 13, 2007
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The Department of Transportation will seek the help of an outside party to see whether the agency can recoup any of the $20.8 million spent on the troubled Indian River Inlet Bridge project.

During a 90-minute press briefing Nov. 12, Secretary of Transportation Carolann D. Wicks and several DelDOT engineers discussed the project’s setbacks and costs and how to best move forward with a new bridge proposal.

“We are going to pursue a claims consultant to help us find the best path forward for the state,” Wicks said.

Wicks said she hopes to have a concrete plan within six months.

The state has spent much of its $36.5 million budget for ramps and various wetland mitigation and road and park improvements on the new bridge, which proved unsuccessful because the dirt approach ramps leading to the proposed 1,400-ft span were settling deeper than expected and shifting to the west.

The new plan is for a 2,600-ft bridge using piers sunk into the soil instead of the ramps, with the new cost climbing from $130 million to $150 million.

Questions have arisen surrounding the geotechnical consulting that preceded construction of the approaches.

“When you deal with geotechnical issues, it is a challenging area,” Wicks said.

“You can inspect, see and touch the bridge, the riprap and the superstructure. What’s happening 60-90 ft down in the clay layer is not something we can see or touch.”

The 1,200-ft ramps were built in 2006 with 250,000 cu yd of sand, stone and other material. The taller half of the approaches—about 150,000-180,000 cu yd—will be removed in the new design, said Natalie Barnhart, assistant director of construction for Sussex County.

DelDOT spent about $8.1 million to build the ramps last year, with the section scheduled for removal costing about $6 million, but Barnhart said the material is expected to be used in other transportation projects.

Removing the sections would take about four months and cost approximately $2.7 million.

DelDOT implements an errors and omissions policy into its professional services contracts that can be used to hold clients responsible for complications that result from mistakes made in the planning stages.

If DelDOT were to try to recoup costs, the agency could request repayment for any project delays, additional consultant costs, overtime, lost work and other expenses, Barnhart said.

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