Fix for Margaret McDermott Bridge could cost taxpayers $7.1 million

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One of Dallas’s signature bridges over the Trinity River could cost taxpayers an additional $7.1 million.

Part of the Margaret McDermott Bridge has been unusable since it opened two years ago. 

The Margaret McDermott Bridge was supposed to be a signature project in Dallas. But instead of standing out as a landmark, it’s come to symbolize a boondoggle.

Barricades stop pedestrians and cyclists from crossing the bridge over the Trinity River because of what an engineering firm called design flaws. The firm said the bridge’s cables experienced vibration that was unaccounted for in the design and changes need to be made to the anchor rod system.

The Texas Department of Transportation found it would cost about $7.1 million to make the repairs. It would also take nearly three years to complete with testing and installation.

Dallas city councilmembers said they were concerned that the move may be throwing good money after bad. But city administrators said if the city doesn’t pay for the repairs, it could owe money back to the federal government.

The cost overruns started in 2013, ballooning from $74 million to more than $100 million. The assistant city manager at the time told council members the city was working with the contractor to save money by "value engineering," a euphemism for finding cheaper alternatives.

One of the big issues came down to stress testing the cables and rods. To save $30,000, city staff authorized skipping that step. But when TxDOT found there was no alternative, the state’s contractor moved forward with the original plan. The parts being tested were ultimately approved.

At that 2013 meeting where $8 million was added to the project, only two council members expressed concerns: Angela Hunt and Scott Griggs.

“I think it is important to recap what has happened today,” said Mayor Mike Rawlings. “Another act in our vision for the Trinity River is coming to pass. Something we have all been working on for two decades really.”

If the additional funding is approved and things go according to plan, the bicycle and pedestrian lanes will open in April 2022.

The Dallas City Council is set to decide whether or not to approve the additional $7 million on Wednesday. It is keeping its options open to get that money back from responsible third parties.