NTTA's $900,000 design error

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NTTA to review policies on project designs after $900,000 error
Transportation Writer
Dallas Morning News
07 August 2014

The North Texas Tollway Authority will review how it oversees the design of its projects after poorly designed steel led to a delay and about $900,000 in additional costs on the new Chisholm Trail Parkway.

The design flaw came to public light Thursday at an NTTA board committee meeting during which staff members asked for the money to make up for the mistake. The agency’s full board is expected to make a final decision on that request this month.

Assistant executive director of infrastructure Elizabeth Mow said she plans to recover the costs from URS, which officials said was the subcontractor responsible for the design flaw. Mow said that company does not currently have any other active contracts with NTTA.

Agency spokesman Michael Rey said steel beams needed for the project were not built strong enough.

“When they got on site, they saw they were not properly engineered for the job at hand,” Rey said.

Rey said the errors affected only the portion of the toll road over the Trinity River and University Drive in Fort Worth. He said some affected portions are still not open while others were fixed before they opened last week.

The road’s main lanes from Johnson County to downtown Fort Worth opened in May. The agency has been gradually opening various connector bridges, entrances and exits ever since.

Board members questioned why the error wasn’t caught during the design phase of the process.

“The severity of that, in my opinion, is more than just the costs,” said board member Mojy Haddad.

Mow said that the agency relies on engineers working for its contractors to review and sign off on project designs. She said the agency spot-checks about 10 percent of a project’s plans.
“There are millions of items in a design project,” she said.

Mow said the agency reviewed other portions of the project and does not believe there are other problems. She also said the problem should have been caught during the design phase, before the steel was manufactured and delivered. Mow said agency officials plan to begin looking more closely at critical portions of projects, like the affected bridge.

Board members told CEO and executive director Gerry Carrigan to bring back more information about how the agency oversees design work so they can review policies.

“Every one of us realizes the seriousness of this,” said board member Michael Nowels.

Money for the overruns caused by the flaw will come from $65 million in contingency funds already budgeted and set aside for the project. The agency has spent about $30 million of that money to date.

“This makes me sick, but it happens,” Mow told board members. “That’s what the contingency is for.”