14th Street Viaduct partially re-opened Repairs continue following wall collapse

Following days of cleanup from last Sunday’s wall collapse at the 14th Street Viaduct in Union City, the northern arm leading toward 16th Street was re-opened at 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon.

“I am proud of the around-the-clock effort that removed the mess following the storm and allowed us to re-open half of this important roadway today,” said County Executive Tom DeGise in a statement released from his office Wednesday.

The second collapse of the retaining wall took place Monday afternoon on the southern arm of 14th Street Viaduct, which ascends from Hoboken up to Manhattan Avenue. That veers left towards Paterson Plank Road, which is the city limit between Jersey City and Union City.

That section of the viaduct will remain closed for another 14 days.

The retaining wall sits just below street level at the parking lot entrance to the Doric Apartment Building. Tenants were asked to utilize the other two entrances to the building, while cleanup and repairs continue.

“On the southbound side of Paterson Plank headed toward Manhattan Avenue in Jersey City, we are doing all we can to repair the wall on the Doric’s property abutting the road as swiftly as possible and open the roadway completely,” said DeGise.

Wall comes tumbling down

On Sunday evening, April 15, in the midst of heavy rains from the nor’easter, the wall on the south side of the viaduct collapsed sometime after 10 p.m., blanketing the road with bluestone, granite, mortar and structural bars. The first calls to police came in at about 10:50 p.m.

“All of the local response agencies were in place immediately,” said Union City Chief of Police Charles Everett last Monday. “No one was hurt and [just in case] we did have the state police looking for anyone buried in the rubble. At that time of night there is traffic here.”

On the scene were Union City and Jersey City police, as well as the Union City Office of Emergency Management, and the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue.

Last Monday, Nacirema Environmental, a construction company, had been at work since 4 a.m. to clear the road. The project was also being overseen by the Office of the County Engineer.

“The collapse was 150 feet in length,” said Jack Dempsey, chief project coordinator for Hudson County’s office of the county engineer. “There is a spring or some source of water coming from behind the wall that we think contributed to the wall collapse.”

According to James Kennelly, spokesperson for the Hudson County Executive, as of last Thursday, the Hudson County engineer’s estimation as to why the wall collapsed was water infiltration.

“The wall, which was built in 1934, was never meant to be structural, but purely decorative,” said Kennelly. “Water collected above the wall, and overtime infiltrated. The wall wasn’t designed to carry that pressure and eventually gave way like a dam bursting.”

Many also believe that the heavy rains from the nor’easter, in addition to the water build up, may have contributed to the wall collapse.

“It’s more of a cosmetic wall [over the palisades] rather than a structural wall,” said Dempsey.

In addition, tenants from 410 Palisade Avenue, which is adjacent to the collapse atop the palisades, were evacuated as a safety precaution that Sunday evening and given shelter at the Bruce Walter Recreation Center. They were allowed to return home the next day.

Additional collapse

As cleanup got underway last Monday, the retaining wall below the street level, which is located on the left hand side of the Doric apartment complex’s parking lot, also collapsed that afternoon.

The collapse caused damaged to a portion the road, which will need to be rebuilt, but again no one was hurt. As a result, the southbound Paterson Plank section of the viaduct will remain closed until about May 2 while repairs are made and the county Division of Engineering inspects the structure.

“The time table given to us is 14 days, which would be by May 2,” said Kennelly. “We are committed to having the wall back up within 14 days.”

Quick action and cost

Following road cleanup and a review by the County Division of Engineering, which made sure the structural integrity was in tact, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise allowed the northbound section of the viaduct to re-open to traffic, with the exception of trucks weighing over three tons for safety reasons.

As far as who will foot the bill for the repairs, that will be determined at a later time.

“The answer is yet to be determined,” said Kennelly. “What is most important is to get work underway on the wall due to the emergency nature of the situation.”

The estimated cost for construction will be $200,000. Additionally, approximately $25,000 is also estimated for the design of the wall, which will include an assessment of the existing structure.

“The design for the wall is going to be handled by the city of Union City,” said Kennelly.

The design will also include a study into what may have ultimately caused both collapses and what will be needed to prevent this from happening again.

Union City has agreed to cover the approximate $25,000 for the design cost, and it has been suggested that the Doric may pay for some repairs due to the retaining wall being on their property.

However, nothing has been set yet, and the county has been in contact with the attorney for the condo association at the Doric.

The engineering and consultant firm Schoor DePalma has been suggested as a possibility to oversee the design of the wall, but Union City has not made a decision yet. Jessica Rosero can be reached at jrosero@hudsonreporter.com


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