DelDOT settles IR Inlet bridge suit for $5.25 million

State's suit over approaches to span sought $19 million
Most of the large earthen embankments on both sides of the inlet for a previous bridge design were removed to make way for the new bridge. BY RON MACARTHUR
October 26, 2013

Engineering firms involved in the construction of failed approaches to an Indian River Inlet bridge that was never built have agreed to a $5.25 million settlement for Delaware taxpayers.

"This settlement allows DelDOT to receive more than $5 million for Delaware's taxpayers now, while avoiding the burdens and uncertainty of a lengthy trial involving complex geotechnical engineering issues next spring," said Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt in a press release about the Oct. 25 settlement.

"This was a challenging case with strengths and weaknesses on all sides," Bhatt said. "I believe the settlement provides a reasonable resolution to this matter, and I look forward to applying the proceeds to help meet Delaware's transportation needs."

Construction of earthen embankments, built to serve as approaches to the proposed bridge, began in 2006. As construction neared completion in 2007, it was discovered the embankments were not stable; DelDOT officials decided to remove them and redesign the bridge. In 2011, DelDOT sued Figg Bridge Engineers Inc. and its consultant, MACTEC Engineering and Consulting for the cost of building and removing the approaches and other damages, which totaled more than $19 million.

According to a press release, "DelDOT, MACTEC and Figg all had highly regarded experts prepared to testify in support of their claims and defenses, but the uncertainties of litigation led to the compromise reached to resolve the litigation."

According to the press release, both firms deny responsibility for the failure of the embankments.

The resolution of the case, which arose out of voluntary mediation among the parties, requires the payment of $5.25 million to Delaware.

The settlement funds can be used for federally-approved transportation projects on routes such as 1, 404, 9, 13 and 113 in Sussex County. The funds could be used to help fund work that is already scheduled for these roads as part of DelDOT's capital transportation plan.

The lawsuit had been scheduled for a 12-week trial beginning in May 2014. An email attached to a press release announcing the settlement states "... parties to the suit are not able to go beyond the contents of the press release," meaning details of the settlement are not expected to be made public.






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