On the Waterfront: Safety, function to be studied by engineering firm

On the Waterfront: Safety, function to be studied by engineering firm

March 17th, 2011 by Mike Pare in News

The Riverfront terrace has many cracks on the concrete surface that began appearing a few years ago. Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Less than six years after the city's 21st Century Waterfront opened to great fanfare, a big portion will undergo a comprehensive engineering study to assess its problems.

"This is a major infrastructure repair to the city," said Larry Zehnder, Chattanooga's parks and recreation director.

The study of more than 1,000 feet of the downtown waterfront's concrete edge will examine not just cracking and soil erosion, but will look at the electrical, pumping, water and sewer systems that were installed before the project was completed in 2005.

"This study will identify the problems and then the solutions to the problems," Zehnder told the Chattanooga Downtown Redevelopment Corp., which oversees the Ross's Landing area and agreed to authorize the $610,000 study by HDR Engineering Inc.

The money for the study comes from the hotel/motel tax.

Along with concrete and soil problems, Zehnder said, there's a question of whether boaters who dock at the site are getting the proper electrical voltage when they hook up.

He also said that with the flooding the area receives - such as the rising waters from the recent rainstorms - there are questions whether the equipment used there can remain serviceable.

The study's field work is expected to be finished before the Riverbend Festival starts in midsummer, officials said. After that will come detailed engineering to pinpoint exact repairs and then the work itself.

Steve Leach, the city's public works administrator, said safety additions could be made as well.

The $1.6 million in earlier repairs and upgrades at the nearby Passage attraction included installing railings around the water cannons, he noted.

Dan Johnson, Mayor Ron Littlefield's chief of staff and a Chattanooga Downtown Redevelopment Corp. member, said the functionality of the waterfront site won't change.

"The safety aspects may be enhanced," he said.

Zehnder said the area gets "a tremendous amount of usage" from boaters and the general public. The site hosted 45 events last year, he said.

"It's a very people-oriented location," Zehnder said. "As a result, we want to make sure this is preserved for the future."

The city had sued to recoup waterfront repairs from two firms and River City Co., but a judge dismissed the lawsuit last week. City officials have said they may appeal.