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TxDOT files claim with trucking company’s insurance to recover $2.4 million in repairs

The fiery crash caused by an 18-wheeler that barreled into a utility bridge on I-10 in Downtown El Paso, forcing the day-and-a-half-long closure of the freeway, will cost millions of dollars to repair — and the state is seeking reimbursements to keep taxpayers from footing the bill.

ABC-7’s investigative team has been looking into the repair costs and who will pay for them since shortly after the crash occurred on July 19, 2018.

A driver with White Mountain Trucking Company, which is based in Arizona, had told authorities he was reaching for a water bottle when he lost control and drove up the embankment. He managed to walk away after slamming into a bridge that carries utility lines across I-10 by the downtown overpasses.

The damage caused by the crash has taken months to repair. In fact, the daylong closure of I-10 through downtown on Jan. 27, nearly six months after the crash, was to repair damage to water lines, according to El Paso Water’s Twitter page.

Through an open records request with the Texas Department of Transportation, ABC-7 learned it cost $2.4 million to repair the utility bridge.

What’s unclear is how much of that — if any — you will have to pay.

“We will pursue a claim against that trucking company and we will see what we come up with,” said Jennifer Wright, a spokeswoman for TXDOT. “Hopefully, all of it will be covered by the trucking company.”

Wright told ABC-7 that TXDOT is still trying to determine how much of that $2.4 million will be paid for by White Mountain Trucking’s insurance.

“Our expectation at this point would be that taxpayers are not going to be on the hook for any of the amount of the repairs,” added Wright.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires interstate trucking companies to carry at least $750,000 in damage insurance. But TXDOT would not disclose the amount or limits of White Mountain’s damage coverage.

Neither would White Mountain in a phone conversation that ABC-7 had with an official from the company. That official didn’t want to give ABC-7 his name or title because he said he “should not have been speaking” with the media about the case. The official told ABC-7 the company is being sued by TXDOT to cover the repair bill, adding, “It could take years and years to resolve.” Wright told ABC-7 TxDOT is not suing the company, rather, filing a claim with its insurance company.

In the meantime, contractors have to be paid and materials have to be purchased, so those costs are being paid for by TXDOT and the utilities.

“We have a maintenance budget,” Wright said. “We have all these categories of funding. I would imagine that it might affect one pot of money but not another.”

As for how much of that money will be paid back and when, those answers are not known.

El Paso Electric told ABC-7 it is still finalizing the total material and labor costs associated with the utility bridge repair and will file a claim with “the responsible party” once the data is complete.

El Paso Water also said it doesn’t have a final estimate of the damage.

Texas Gas Services said the line in the bridge was inactive and there was minimal repair work done.

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