Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fort Worth Star-Telegram Thinks Someone Goofed On The Panther Island Bridge Design

Yesterday after Elsie Hotpepper pointed me to an article in the Star-Telegram about the latest delay of America's Biggest Boondoggle I blogged about it in Design Woes Are Not The Only Problem With Fort Worth's Panther Island Bridges.

This morning Elsie Hotpepper pointed me to an editorial in this morning's Star-Telegram titled Panther Island bridge design: Someone goofed.

If you click the link you may be blocked from reading the editorial if you are not a Star-Telegram subscriber. So, I will copy the editorial in it entirety, below, for your reading pleasure.

But before you get to the editorial there is a thing or two I want to say about what I read in this editorial.

The editorial tells us this project has been controversial since it was proposed 15 years ago and that when anything goes wrong it gives the project's legions of critics another reason to harp about a boondoggle. And that this one time the legions of critics might be just a little bit right about the boondoggle thing.

This allegedly vitally important flood prevention and economic development has been limping along for 15 years, with very little to show for the effort, with the project morphing, over time, to include bizarre things like hosting floating beer parties in the Trinity River at a location called Panther Island Pavilion. Where there is no island or pavilion.

And the Star-Telegram thinks the legions of critics might be just a little right thinking the Trinity River Central City Uptown Panther Island Vision is a boondoggle?

And then there is the part where the editorial opines that it is true that the bridge design is novel because Panther Island advocates were determined to have unique bridges.

Now I ask you reading this in sane areas of America, and the world, look at that artist's rendering of one of these design flawed bridges. Does that look even remotely unique to you? Does it look even remotely novel? Or do you see what I see? A rather plain, simple looking little bridge. With a construction timeline of four years, the same amount of time it took to build the Golden Gate Bridge. Over deep fast moving water.

Building over water. That leads me to the part of this editorial I found the most annoying. I am referring to this sentence....

The bridges are being built on dry land to save money, before the 1.8-mile Trinity bypass channel is built below them.

The way propaganda works is basically a lie gets repeated over and over again til it becomes believed to be the truth.

The bridges are not being built over dry land to save money. The bridges are being built prior to the flood diversion channel being built because there is no money, currently, to pay for the digging of the ditch under the bridges. There will be no water under  those bridges until the Trinity River is diverted into the flood diversion channel.

There has never been any other option but to build these bridges over dry land. To claim this was by design, to save money, is,  well, like I said, annoying. It likely would have saved money to have the construction of the bridges taking place at the same time as the bypass channel was built, easily integrating the two aspects of the project.

Look at that drawing of one of the bridges, with one of its piers in the water. I predict that if the money is ever found to dig the ditch, that having those bridges already in place will present yet one more costly design engineering problem for America's Biggest Boondoggle.

And now, below, the aforementioned editorial....

Panther Island bridge design: Someone goofed

As far as delays on $910 million construction projects go, this is not a big one.

Texas Department of Transportation officials say some work has been halted for about a month on two of the three bridges over a planned Trinity River bypass channel, part of the 800-acre Panther Island (Trinity River Vision) project north of downtown Fort Worth.

The bridge construction isn’t scheduled to be finished until 2018, so a month or so here or there won’t be noticed.

But the Panther Island project’s advocates don’t have to be reminded that there is more to it.

The project has been highly controversial since it was proposed almost 15 years ago. Anything that goes wrong is highly sensitive, another reason for legions of critics to harp about a boondoggle.

This one time, they might even be just a little bit right.

A design problem cropped up during construction of concrete piers for the bridges on Henderson Street and White Settlement Road. A third bridge, on North Main Street, isn’t scheduled to begin construction until next month.

Problems happen, we all know. But inadequate design for a project this expensive (the three bridges are budgeted at $65.5 million)?

TxDOT spokesman Val Lopez says there was a miscalculation in the amount of steel needed to reinforce the concrete piers.

“What we are addressing is adjusting the spacing of the reinforced steel in the piers to simplify the pouring of concrete into it,” Lopez told Star-Telegram reporter Gordon Dickson. “It’s a novel design, and we want to make sure we execute it as best we can so we can deliver the highest-quality project possible.”

That part about the bridges being a novel design is true — Panther Island advocates were determined to have unique bridges.

But the part about taking extra care to “deliver the highest-quality project possible” is lipstick on a pig.

Somebody screwed up. The original design was faulty — or it was so “novel” that it just didn’t work in the real world of bridge construction.

Lopez says work will continue on other aspects of the bridge project, and construction on the redesigned piers will start again “in probably a month’s time.”

The bridges are being built on dry land to save money, before the 1.8-mile Trinity bypass channel is built below them.

The overall Panther Island project, a combined flood control and economic development effort, still needs a $340 million allocation from the Army Corps of Engineers.

None of this is cheap.

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