Finger pointing after Margaret McDermott bridge flaws revealed

The City of Dallas says the Margaret McDermott Bridge is safe despite the pedestrian and bicycle lanes remaining closed to the public.

The pedestrian portions of the bridge were supposed to be open eight months ago, but recent documents reveal there was a fractured cable rod and the engineer would not accept the project as built.

TxDOT on Tuesday warned in a letter to the city that the fractured cable adjustment rod was a design issue and getting the issue resolved was the city's responsibility.

"Three came unattached from the rod, but it isn't a structural issue,” said Sarah Standifer, director of Trinity Watershed Management. “Think of a swing set, it came unattached so it swings a bit, but it's been reattached and dampers were added to stop the vibration."

But neither city council members nor the public were told about the problem. The Dallas Observer was the first to report the issues on Tuesday.

Councilman Scott Griggs said he feels like he and other council members have been kept in the dark about the issue and he blames previous city manager A.C. Gonzalez.

“This is a legacy issue, started with previous city manager,” Griggs said. “I feel confident the new city manager will address the lack of transparency."

A Jan. 11 letter from the city to TxDOT said the engineer was working with TxDOT and the city to reach a solution that ensures the "safety and stability of the completed structure.”

The letter said the famed architecture firm, Santiago Calatrava LLC, had "concerns" "about the cable anchorage fatigue vulnerability." The letter says the engineer "will not accept the project as built."

The city wants the TxDOT contractor to stay on the job.

"If we cross a certain date the cost to keep the contractor around is $1 million a month, and that could be much more than the repairs and that's completely avoidable since this started in March 2016,” Griggs said.

The city says they've come up with solutions since the Jan. 11 letter.

"Engineer of record has said the bridge is safe and once the contractor completes punch list items it can be open to the general public,” Standifer said.

Work left to do includes some painting and adding lighting to the bridge. There is no set date for the bridge to open to pedestrians, but the city hopes it will be soon.

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