Calatrava Bridge is Falling Down, Falling Down

At least one architect, in Houston, thinks the Calatrava bridge may be a no-go. That'd be a shame. No, really.

A Houston-based architect who does some consulting for Houston mayor Bill White sends this missive, through good Friend of Unfair Park Lorlee Bartos, concerning the Calatrava Bridge cost overrun that turned a $57 million project into a $113 million wuh-oh. Yesterday, we reported that City Manager Mary Suhm said city officials were working with contractors and likely the architect himself to get costs more in line with expecations. This postcard from Houston says, in short, good luck with all that:

Typically, you can apply the 10% rule to situations like this.

1. If all of the bids are within 10% of one another, which they are, then the bids are valid. Rebidding will only result in an increase in price.

2. When cost-cutting, it is very difficult to achieve more than 10% cost savings without a substantial change is scope or redesign. Calatrava has no choice but to start completely from scratch.

3. A corollary to the 10% rule: Costs are increasing right now at about 10% a year, so the new design can only cost $48 million in today's dollars, because a complete redesign will probably take a year to complete and rebid. In other words, they are completely screwed.

This article is putting a very positive spin on a potentially very ugly situation. Calatrava and his consultants are not going to want to do this for free and are going to ask for additional services, despite what the contract says. Dallas may not get its bridge after all.

Bartos says she thinks Suhm's comments yesterday at the DowntownDallas luncheon were her "trying to put a good face on a bad situation." And she wants us to push her new name for the Calatrava: Bridge on the River Crap. Don't think it'll fly with the mayor, but we're willing to give it a shot. --Robert Wilonsky

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