Battleship Texas Dry Berth Design Contract Signed

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AUSTIN – In a major step toward long-term preservation of the Battleship Texas, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has signed a contract with AECOM USA Group, Inc. – a globally recognized architectural and engineering firm – to design a permanent dry berth for the historic vessel before time and the elements scuttle the ship.

The 1914-vintage battleship, a veteran of both world wars, is the last of its kind. She’s been moored at the San Jacinto Battleground since 1948. Her hull was last repaired in the late 1980s and has since become dangerously weakened from years of exposure to the brackish water of the Houston Ship Channel.

“The dry berthing of the Texas is the most complex project ever undertaken by this department,” said TPWD project manager Neil Thomas. “The design and construction will be a very large civil engineering project.  And the age and condition of the ship, which is a National Historic Landmark, adds a challenging naval architectural component as well.  All these factors combine to make the project absolutely unique.”

In 2007, as part of Proposition 4, voters approved a bond package that included $25 million to dry-berth the battleship. After TPWD conducted engineering studies and developed a project plan as directed by the 80th Legislature, the Legislative Budget Board approved sale of bonds “contingent on the ship being dry berthed in its current location.” Funding for the project includes a $4 million contribution from the Battleship Texas Foundation.

Earlier this year, TPWD selected AECOM  – a company with 40,000 employees world-wide – as the most qualified architectural-engineering firm to design the dry berth.  Since that time the department has been in negotiations with the firm, a process which included developing the scope of work to be done and the products to be delivered. The contract was signed Oct. 26.

“AECOM is a highly qualified internationally recognized firm with offices in the Houston area and was the winning designer among a number of exceptional entries,” said Andy Smith, manager of the Battleship Texas State Historic Site. “TPWD looks forward to working with AECOM over the coming years to devise a long term solution that combines preservation and proper stewardship with a world class display of this historic ship.”

Smith said the goal is to save the historic ship, save the taxpayers money and provide a first class experience for the visiting public that is fitting of Texas and her namesake state.

Last June, a rag and a backup pump kept the storied battleship Texas from sinking in its mooring. When park staff noticed the ship resting more than two feet lower in the water than normal, a leak was discovered on the starboard side of the ship near the waterline. A rag was stuffed into the leak until the water could be pumped out.

The just-signed contract calls for AECOM to have its preliminary design completed by spring 2011. Following a federally mandated environmental assessment expected to take about two years, the bidding process for construction of the dry berth and temporary mooring of the Texas is expected to begin in mid-2014 with construction complete by the summer of 2017.