Every Calatrava-designed Bridge Built in the Past Five Years Has Had Massive Cost Overruns, So Why Are We Surprised?

Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin, which ended up costing six times its original estimate. Photo: Darren Hall

Yesterday, the Dallas City Council approved funding for the second Santiago Calatrava-designed bridge in the city, the Margaret McDermott Bridge. The price tag is $115 million, $12 million higher than the last estimate, and $41 million higher than the original. Really, though, the Council shouldn’t be surprised. Just look at other “signature bridges” designed by Calatrava.

In 2009, Samuel Beckett Bridge opened in Dublin. Original estimate? Ten million euros. Final cost? Sixty million. The cost of the Jerusalem Chords Bridge grew from NIS 80 million to NIS 129 million to NIS 246 million, or roughly $70 million. Calgary’s Peace Bridge climbed from $19 million to $25 million (contractors picked up the cost increase on that one, due to a pretty smart city contract). And Ponte della Costituzione in Venice’s cost grew from 6.7 million euros to 11.8 million euros, an increase that caused protests in the streets.

The point is simple. We can complain all we want about the cost of these bridges, but a simple look through history shows that these structures a.) take a long time to approve/build, and b.) usually run over-budget, grossly.