DelDOT Files Suit Against Indian River Inlet Bridge Consultants
The Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) today filed suit in the Superior Court for Sussex County against bridge design firm Figg Bridge Engineers, Inc. (Figg) and its geotechnical subconsultant MACTEC Engineering and Consulting, Inc. (MACTEC) for geotechnical errors in connection with the Indian River Inlet Bridge replacement project. The suit asserts that MACTEC, as a sub-consultant for Figg, failed to account for the nature and extent of settlement of soil under the earthen roadway embankments constructed as roadway approaches over the inlet. The suit further alleges that MACTEC provided erroneous information regarding the soil settlement to DelDOT.
"DelDOT hired industry leading engineer experts, who conducted a thorough and comprehensive review to determine why the roadway embankments failed and who should bear responsibility for those failures," said Transportation Secretary Carolann Wicks. "The investigation revealed that the failures resulted from geotechnical engineering errors. We worked to resolve these issues without litigation, but we have been unable to reach a resolution that's fair to taxpayers. We are now seeking a resolution in court."
The lawsuit states that the deficiencies in the embankments are directly attributable to the failures and omissions of MACTEC, and that MACTEC, as sub-consultant to Figg, breached the standard of care that it owed to DelDOT. The facts in the complaint are based upon comprehensive studies prepared by the engineering firm of O'Connell & Lawrence, Inc. and the geotechnical consulting firm of Golder Associates, Inc., as well as observations of experts made during deconstruction of the embankments. The lawsuit specifically alleges that:
* MACTEC did not adequately analyze monitoring data and thus did not recognize that the intended embankment stability had dropped below minimally acceptable levels during and upon completion of construction;
* The embankments settled and deformed substantially more than MACTEC had advised DelDOT would be the case. This is because MACTEC miscalculated the nature and extent of settlement in the soft clay under the embankments, and did not take into account other types of settlement.
* MACTEC miscalculated the time intervals over which settlement would occur.
* MACTEC failed to specify a process for monitoring data or implementing necessary action if required by field conditions.
DelDOT seeks as damages its costs to construct the original earthen embankments and their partial removal, together with other related damages in excess of $19.6 million. The suit also alleges that the portions of the remaining embankments continue to settle, which had to be accounted for in the design of the new bridge approaches contract. The lawsuit states Figg is responsible due to the errors and omissions of MACTEC, its subconsultant. Figg has cooperated in DelDOT's investigation of this project.
Construction of the earthen embankments began in February/March 2006. As embankment construction was nearing completion in early 2007, excessive settlement, bulging, tilting and other deformation of the embankment walls were observed. A subsequent independent analysis of the south approach embankment revealed that the excessive and uneven settlement was expected to continue. After analyzing whether to salvage or replace the embankments, DelDOT concluded that the embankments would pose continual and costly maintenance, as well as construction and safety risks and should be replaced with elevated roadway approaches to the new bridge. The Federal Highway Administration, which is providing a large portion of the funding for the replacement bridge, agreed with DelDOT's conclusion to remove the embankments.