21st Century Waterfront repairs to cost millions

21st Century Waterfront repairs to cost millions

April 26th, 2012 by Cliff Hightower in News

Pedestrians walk a pavement path between the Tennessee River and the Tennessee Aquarium in this file photo. The 21st Century Waterfront was completed in January, 2005.


The city is waiting on an appeal of a lawsuit against River City Co., Hargreaves Associates and Continental Construction Co., the parties who built the 21st Century Waterfront. The city sued the three firms in 2009 after spending $1.6 million to fix The Passage water feature and finding more problems along the waterfront. The city has been battling problems at the 21st Century Waterfront almost from the time it opened in 2005.

A fix to repair the concrete edge along the 21st Century Waterfront could cost $4.8 million to $7.8 million, officials say.

Dan Garza, a project manager for HDR Engineering Inc., briefed the Chattanooga City Council on Wednesday afternoon on fixing cracks along the hard edge of the waterfront. He said the ultimate fix would be a steel wall to stop further erosion.

"That's what the plan is," Garza said, "to stop that soil from migrating into the river."

He said the city could implement the fixes in phases and added that there is no immediate threat of any of the structure breaking off and falling into the river.

Councilwoman Deborah Scott said after the meeting that she believes the people who built the wall should be the people who pay for it.

"I think the biggest thing is finding out how those who created these problems can pay to fix it," she said.

The briefing came at the end of a yearlong $610,000 study by the Corpus Christi-based HDR on cracking problems at the waterfront. The 21st Century Waterfront opened to great fanfare in May 2005, but problems were found at The Passage, a water feature of the waterfront, and the city spent $1.6 million to reconstruct the site.

At the same time, city officials were noticing problems at the 1,000-foot hard edge of the waterfront. The city filed a lawsuit in 2009 against project overseer River City Co., designer Hargreaves Associates and contractor Continental Construction Co. to recoup the costs. The three entities filed countersuits.

A judge threw out the lawsuit early last year, saying the city filed the suit beyond the statute of limitations. The city has appealed and is waiting for an answer from the state Court of Appeals.

During Wednesday's meeting, Scott asked to meet with City Attorney Mike McMahan about the lawsuits. McMahan said he would arrange a meeting within the next few weeks.

Garza laid out several steps for the city to take to fix the problem. The first would be to conduct testing along the terraces leading to the water. He said the engineering firm would like to break down the terraces, then reconstruct them to see if weak reinforcement was a problem with the soil erosion.

The city also should put in instruments to monitor erosion and settling at the waterfront, he said.

The steel wall was his last suggestion and he offered three proposals -- one in which an underwater wall runs along the entire 21st Century Waterfront, a second with the wall covering about half and a third that covers only the pier.

At one point, Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd asked how many of the problems had to do with time and age compared to design problems.

"This is outside typical settlement issues," he said.

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