Insurance’s Important Role In Awe-Inspiring Bridge Construction

A massive New York construction project reminds one insurance official of his industry’s increasingly important role in infrastructure.

By Dan Gmelin, Argo Pro Vice President of Underwriting and Head of Architects & Engineers

I just took my first trip over the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge – one of the primary crossings of the Hudson River north of New York City – and it was amazing.

OK, so the actual drive over the 3.1-mile bridge was not amazing; it was like any other drive over a bridge. What was amazing was watching it take shape over the dozens of trips I took over the old bridge next to it. And it reminded me of the important, albeit behind-the-scenes, role insurers such as my employer Argo Pro play when it comes to helping large-scale infrastructure projects succeed.

An unforgettable feat of engineering

Some of those trips across the bridge were with my family. Eventually, my kids would gaze at all the construction activity and ask: “Where is the largest crane in the world?” They were referring to the Left Coast Lifter, which is the official name based on the work it did in California, although it’s also called I Lift NY because it’s being used for this bridge project. I didn’t have the heart to tell them the largest one is in the Netherlands. But the Left Coast Lifter is no slouch either. It’s capable of lifting nearly 2,000 tons – or about 12 Statues of Liberty – in one motion.

I also explained to my kids some of the nuances involved in constructing a bridge of this scale. I could see their eyes light up when viewing the massive 419-foot angled towers. This is probably a project that they will never forget. I know I will never forget seeing the slow and steady progress that was made over the course of the 5-year construction phase. The total cost of the project is $3.98 billion, but the numbers surrounding the details of the project are even more astounding. It includes:

  • 300,000 cubic yards of concrete.
  • 220 million pounds of U.S. steel.
  • 700 miles of high-strength steel strands used for the cables.

Managing risks on a large scale

A lot happens behind the scenes that help make large-scale infrastructure projects successful. Take insurance, for example.

At Argo Pro, a member of Argo Group, we provide professional liability insurance for engineers and contractors working on these types of big projects, including multifamily developments, high-rise commercial office buildings and power plants.

Mitigating risks

Building a bridge of this size requires careful coordination and planning among engineers, contractors, materials suppliers, inspectors and municipalities, so there are potential risks involved.

But having the right insurer who can help mitigate those risks is essential, especially at a time when there is a planned surge in U.S. infrastructure investment.

As just one example, we’re seeing a rising trend of additional complexities surrounding infrastructure projects, such as design-build and integrated delivery. That can result in contractors assuming higher risks.

Some newer technology is enhancing safety. Building Information Modeling (BIM), for example, lets project managers view detailed aspects of the construction project and swiftly identify potential problems.

But there’s a double-edged sword: With infrastructure and construction companies relying more on internet of things technology, including wireless network connections, you’re seeing an increased risk in cyber exposures such as cyberattacks.

Taking in the view

So the next time you pass by one of these construction projects, take a few minutes to watch some of the work that goes into it. Marvel at how many moving parts there are, view the numerous professionals who play a role in its completion, and know that there are still others at work behind the scenes helping ensure potential risks are addressed.

But before you know it, the carefully orchestrated buzz of construction activity and neck-craning views of towering equipment will be in the rearview mirror. The bridge and its walking/bicycle path are expected to be complete in 2018.

Feel free to contact Dan Gmelin at daniel.gmelin@argoprous.com if you’d like to learn more about how Argo Pro is addressing infrastructure projects.

About the author

Based in Jersey City, New Jersey, Dan Gmelin is vice president of underwriting and head of Architects & Engineers at Argo Pro. He is tasked with growing Argo’s Architects & Engineers, Contractors and Real Estate Developers books of business. He is a recognized thought leader in the industry, having served on multiple panels ranging from risk management to innovations in construction technology. Gmelin has published numerous articles on topics such as advances in drone technology, risk management, safety on the construction site and more. Gmelin is a member of the Professional Liability Underwriting Society.

Gmelin was previously senior vice president and A&E product head at Hiscox Insurance Company, where, as one of their first U.S. employees, he helped build their professional liability department from the ground up. Gmelin has prior experience in multiple professional liability products, including A&E, Miscellaneous E&O, Allied Healthcare Technology, Cyber and General Liability. Prior to Hiscox, he was a senior underwriter at Professional Indemnity Agency, and before that, a financial advisor with CIBC Oppenheimer’s High Net Worth Private Client Group. Gmelin graduated with a degree in economics from the University at Albany, SUNY.

About Argo Pro

Argo Pro, a member of Argo Group, is a leading provider of professional lines insurance products and services that can accommodate medium and large organizations on an admitted and non-admitted basis. Through a single operating platform and a robust network of appointed wholesale and retail distribution partners, Argo Pro offers a broad, customizable portfolio of errors and omissions and management liability insurance solutions. Argo Pro maintains offices in Chicago, Jersey City, San Francisco, Scottsdale and Hamilton Township (New Jersey).

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