TxDOT Halts Work on Corpus Christi’s Harbor Bridge, Citing Potential For Collapse
The Texas Department of Transportation’s decision on July 15th to halt construction on a key part of the new Harbor Bridge left residents, local officials, and state lawmakers with questions.
The new, nearly $1 billion cable-stayed bridge will span the Corpus Christi Ship Channel and replace the aging 1950s-era Harbor Bridge. Once completed it will be the tallest structure in South Texas.
In the weeks following the July 15 announcement, the TxDOT drip-fed information about its reasons for pausing construction on the project — which raised concerns in the community. A bipartisan group of state lawmakers called on the TxDOT to release more information “as soon as possible” regarding the pause and its implications.
“If safety is the issue, then full disclosure needs to be made to the public,” state Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, stated in an interview with the Corpus Christi Caller-Times last week. “The public pays for the project. The public should know about the project. We need to have freedom of information flow and transparency about the Harbor Bridge.”
Calls For More Transparency
Due to the lack of information being made public, a Nueces County’s bipartisan state delegation issued a joint statement to the Caller-Times calling on TxDOT to release more information “as soon as possible.”
The Texas Public Information Act, which requires governmental entities to “promptly produce” responsive records with some exceptions, gives the entities 10 business days after a request is submitted to determine whether they will appeal to the Texas attorney general’s office on whether to withhold or release all or part of the records. TxDOT released the memo detailing its design concerns to the Caller-Times on Aug. 4 — exactly 10 business days after it was requested.
Houston-based media attorney and a Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas board member Joe Larsen said TxDOT’s decision to wait until the final day is commonly made by governmental entities to delay the release of public information. The 10 days are meant for governmental entities to determine whether there is a legal basis for withholding part or all of the information. An agency would be breaking the law if it waits until the final day knowing there was no reasonable basis, Larsen said.