$900,000 tab seen to fix freeway bridge | NevadaAppeal.com

$900,000 tab seen to fix freeway bridge

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal
NEVADA APPEAL | NEVADA APPEAL

RENO (AP) – The state could end up paying nearly $1 million in repairs to fix cracks on a bridge being built as part of a major highway expansion between Reno and Carson City.

Officials for the Nevada Department of Transportation said the safety of the Galena Creek bridge is in no way jeopardized and that construction should be completed by fall of next year.

The cracks are up to 30 feet long and about the width of a dime at the widest point. They were found earlier this month in four areas during testing of metal pipes that help provide internal support for the bridge that spans 1,700 feet long some 300 feet above Galena Creek south of Reno.

It’s the latest setback in a series of contract disputes and other delays for the 8-mile-long highway bypass project that began in 2003 and originally was supposed to be finished last year. When completed, the bridge will be the largest of its kind in the world.

“This is just one of those incidents that can happen on a very large-scale job,” Kent Cooper, NDOT’s assistant director of engineering, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

“We’re not happy about it, but we think everything will be all right,” he said about the cracks.

Another bridge being built as part of the project, the Galena Forest bridge, is the target of an investigation by federal transportation inspectors based on complaints by a former construction worker who says he was ordered to do substandard concrete work to save money last year.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General launched the review in January at the request of Reps. James Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of its Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

The congressmen also asked DOT to evaluate David Lee’s claim that he was fired in retaliation for complaining to state transportation officials about shoddy concrete work on that bridge further north.

State officials and the California-based contractor, C.C. Myers, deny the claims by David Lee and say they welcome an anticipated visit by experts from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

NDOT Project manager Brad Durski said that could occur in June. He said the affected area on the much larger Galena Creek bridge will be strengthened with reinforcing steel and concrete, and cracks will be filled with epoxy at a cost of up to $900,000.

While the cracks pose no safety threat, Durski said they reveal a design flaw that – if not addressed – could shorten by up to 10 years the life expectancy of the bridge designed to last 100 years.

The bridge was designed in-house by NDOT’s own engineers. Because the problem had nothing to do with the contractor’s work or materials, the state will pick up the tab for repairs expected to start in a couple of weeks.

The cracks were discovered March 5 when a project subcontractor was conducting air pressure testing of “post tensioning ducts” that help support the structure where the bridge deck meets its supporting arch, Durski said.

“No one wants this sort of thing to happen,” he said. “We just want to get it fixed and get it done right and keep going.”

The Galena Creek bridge has been the focus of controversy for years. A previous contractor, Wisconsin-based Edward Kraemer and Sons, halted construction of the bridge in 2006, citing concern it could collapse in high wind during a particularly vulnerable point in its construction.

NDOT disputed those claims but state officials decided to pay the company $50 million for work already completed. A new contractor, North Dakota- based Fisher Sand and Gravel Co., was awarded a $393.3 million contract to finish the freeway while C.C. Myers handles the bridge construction.