The city's decision to strike a deal with Cimolai, an Italian steel manufacturer, to save a few bucks while building the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge is what led to a possible 10-month delay in the project. Apparently, the deal was so sweet that Cimolai is having "difficultly finding the financial resources to complete the project," according to Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kelli Petras.
Petras tells Unfair Park that Bill Hale, TxDOT's chief engineer for the Dallas district, cited funding as one of the main issues noted in letter from Cimolai, in which the manufacturer informed TxDOT it was running behind on the fabrication of steel and could not meet the deadline in the contract between the two parties. Rising construction costs and foreign currencies also play into the financial picture, Petras says, which caused TxDOT to move the estimated time of the bridge's completion from May 2010 to March 2011.
However, Petras calls the 10-month delay "a very conservative estimate" and "the worst-case scenario." She also notes that it is only a delay on the aesthetic elements that were scheduled for completion before the bridge would be open for traffic, which remains March 2011. "Even if the bridge were able to be built by the time specified, it would still just be a bridge sitting there without being tied into anything," Petras tells Unfair Park. "So [the delay] really doesn't affect the traveling public."
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Petras also assured us that the contracts between TxDOT and Cimolai are "set in stone" and any money problems are "an issue that they are going to have to work out."
Council member Angela Hunt, who reminds Unfair Park that she had reservations about spending city funds on an iconic bridge, says she received information about the delay only this morning and wasn't told specifically why the bridge construction was delayed. She says the delay is disappointing news to those looking forward to the bridge gracing Dallas' skyline.
"This bridge delay is a continuation of the many delays that we've seen on this project," she says. "I think that becomes very disheartening and frustrating to residents when they see important parts of this project delayed."
Hunt and her council colleagues are meeting about the budget today at City Hall, and you can catch council members Hunt (Frontiers of Flight Museum, 6911 Lemmon Ave., 6:30 p.m.), Caraway, Neumann and Koop at budget town hall meetings tonight. Mayor Tom is scheduled to make an appearance at both Caraway's and Koop's meetings.