- Skanska USA has requested an additional $50 million and an extra 245 days on its Pensacola Bay Bridge replacement project to offset damage and delays it said were caused by Hurricane Sally when it tore through the region in September 2020.
- Pensacola's ABC-3 WEAR-TV reported that the firm sent an email in July to Eisman & Russo Engineering Consulting Co., which is overseeing the $430 million construction project for the Florida DOT, requesting the extension and additional funding. That request, if granted, would ultimately be shouldered by Florida taxpayers.
- Florida State Senator Doug Broxson told the news station the contractor wouldn't get the additional money, however. "I think this is not the first request Skanska has made for things relating to Hurricane Sally," Broxson told ABC-3. "I believe the response from the department will be the same. They're not inclined to do that unless they are notified by a third party that they have to reimburse them for it."
Skanska declined to comment on the matter when contacted by Construction Dive.
The company has been embroiled in controversy in Northwest Florida since the storm, when 27 of its 55 barges broke loose from the project, resulting in damage to the bridge that ultimately caused it to be shut it down until May. The contractor has said it adequately prepared the site leading up to the storm, but that the hurricane's power was unforeseeable and extreme.
More than 1,000 residents, local businesses and government entities have sought compensation for economic losses due to traffic not being able to use the bridge, but Skanska has fought aggressively to limit its liability in the case, saying it should only be on the hook for $1.43 million, the value of the lost barges.
The revelation of the $50 million request came shortly before a judge ordered the firm to pay $92,000 in fees for destroying evidence in the case, an action the Pensacola News Journal reported was deliberate, when data from its executives' cells phones was lost. The paper also said Skanska was trying to get the amount of the fine reduced.
Thus far, Skanska has been mostly successful in court. This summer, it won a request to have the case tried under maritime law, a move that could curtail its liability to just those damages caused directly by the barges.
And the ordeal hasn't prevented the firm from winning other work in the state. Last week, FDOT awarded the company an $81M contract for an Interstate 75 project in Hillsborough County, a move that state legislators both lambasted and justified at the same time.
"As a resident of Northwest Florida who’s not had a good experience with Skanska, of course I’m not happy they got another award," state Rep. Alex Andrade told the News Journal. "But I can guarantee if you delve into all the different circumstances that came about in awarding them it’s all above board."
Andrade told the paper the bid package presented by Skanska was the best option for the state, especially in a market where labor and material costs are increasing the average bid amount.
In October 2020, the Florida DOT sent a letter to Skanska informing the company that it intended to seek reimbursement for lost toll revenue if the bridge's bondholders, which are owed at least $135 million, seek to recoup lost toll revenue from the state. But a state judge ruled that the bondholders cannot force the FDOT to make them whole as far as the tolls are concerned.
FDOT also said it would withhold $35,000 per day from Skanska USA Civil Southeast until traffic was fully restored on the bridge, which happened in May.