The Chilean government has acted to speed up construction work on the delay-plagued $860m Chacoa suspension bridge that will connect the island of Chiloé in the south of the country with the mainland.
The Ministry of Public Works (MOP) decided to intervene to resolve a legal dispute in the Puente Chacao Consortium that won a 2012 tender to build the bridge. The team consisted of scandal-hit Brazilian contractor OAS, Hyundai of South Korea, Systra of France, and the Norwegian consulting engineer Aas-Jakobsen.
Following the Lava Jato corruption scandal in Brazil, which led to five former OAS executives receiving prison sentences, OAS had owned 49% of the consortium, but decided to sell its share to Hyundai, which would then own all the shares.
However, the handover has not gone smoothly, according to Chilean news site Latercera, which has given $860m as the estimated cost of the scheme.
Alberto Undurraga, Chile industry minister, went to the Court of Appeals to support Hyundai’s request for a judicial permit that would allow it to increase its investment in the consortium, an action that OAS is disputing, Latercera reported last week.
Some work on the foundations of the structure has been undertaken, but the main construction phase is yet to begin. The plan is to build a 2.6km long suspension bridge with a central pillar that will be able to withstand a particularly hazardous environment, which includes earthquakes, high winds and strong ocean currents.
The World Highways website reports that if Minister Undurraga is successful, work on the main structure may begin as early as July.
Under an earlier attempt, another consortium was to have started construction of the bridge in 2007 and be finished in 2012. However, the scheme was cancelled after that consortium more than doubled its cost from $410m to $930m. That team was made up of Vinci Grand Projets, Hochtief, the American Bridge Company and two Chilean firms, Besalco and Tecsa.
In May 2012 the government decided to resurrect the project, and put out an international tender with a $740m bidding limit. This was won by the Chacaoa Bride Consortium.
Construction work on the south pillar was due to begin in the third quarter of 2015, but work was delayed by number of factors, including the complex engineering of the structure, the government’s delay in approving the design, and OAS’ involvement in the Lava Jato scandal.
Image: Artist’s render of the Chacoa bridge planned for Chile (Systra)