Tappan Zee Constructors (TZC), the consortium that built the new $4 billion Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, has filed a lawsuit against the New York State Thruway Authority, asking a judge to compel the agency to provide documents about the project that could prove its claim that it's owed $900 million in extra costs incurred during construction.
The design-build team, made up of Fluor Corp., American Bridge Co., Traylor Bros. Inc. and Granite Construction, made its request under New York's Freedom of Information Law. Its claim is that the authority violated that law by not providing the documents.
TZC and its attorneys claim that they sent a public records request to the authority in April 2018 and that, since then, the authority has "intentionally delayed producing the requested records to frustrate TZC's ability to advance claims that it has made ..."
Documents that relate to project budgets, contingency amounts, communications between the authority and the governor's office, as well as related reports, memos and correspondence, are all necessary, TZC said in the filing, to be able to make its case for reimbursement of the $900 million.
The group goes on to say that authority's one-and-a-half year's delay in providing the requested documents is "unfair and unreasonable" and wants the court to issue an order directing the authority to produce the material in 20 days. TZC and its lawyers are also asking that the authority pay attorney fees and costs related to the lawsuit.
The first span of the bridge, which connects the New York counties of Rockland and Westchester via the Hudson River, opened to traffic in 2017, followed by the second span in September 2018. According to the bridge website, related work continues.
When asked for a comment, Laura Ware, TZC spokeswoman, told Construction Dive, "Tappan Zee Constructors can confirm that it has filed a lawsuit against the New York State Thruway Authority. It is Tappan Zee Constructors’ policy not to discuss pending or ongoing litigation."
On-time, on-budget method
The bridge project is one that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has offered up as proof that the design-build method can deliver projects faster and within or under budget. Cuomo, according to the New York Daily News, pushed through legislation requiring that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority use design-build on any project of $25 million or more.
The bridge project, however, has had its share of controversy, one of which was a New York State Attorney General investigation into a possible coverup of defective steel bolts used in the bridge's construction. A safety inspector blew the whistle after 60 steel bolts broke apart during construction. Testing revealed, however, that the cause was likely either a manufacturing defect or over-tightening during installation.
There were also reported safety concerns about the opening of the second span. The New York Times reported that the Cuomo administration allegedly offered incentives to TZC to open the eastern bridge to traffic in August 2018, even though there could be safety implications, an accusation that Cuomo denied. Some engineers were supposedly concerned that an unstable piece of the old bridge would fall onto the new one.