Cincinnati Launches Emergency Repair For Riverside Drive Hillside Movement

Feb 16, 2017

Cincinnati officials are launching an emergency repair project to stop hillside movement along a portion of Riverside Drive in the city's East End neighborhood.

The city announced Thursday it will spend between $5 and $10 million to construct a 1,200 ft. long retaining wall to stop the movement.  The wall will be constructed on private property between Riverside Drive and a railroad line.  That area is between Hazen and Vance.

Officials said construction work could start next week and it will take 12-weeks to complete.  The city is working with property owners to get the required paperwork finished so work can begin.

City Manager Harry Black in concerned about possible damage to water and sewer lines in the ground near the hillside movement if the issue is not address quickly.

"Our professionals, working with the consultants, have determined the extent of the movement to be very serious," Black said. "Specifically we are concerned that without intervention critical water and sewer infrastructure might be in jeopardy."

Those water mains service a large portions of Downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods.

The emergency contract to build the retaining wall has been awarded to Richard Goettle, Inc., which is located in Cincinnati.  It has worked on other slide repairs in the region and around the country.

Black said the $5 to $10 million for the repair work will come from the Metropolitan Sewer District and the Greater Cincinnati Water Works.

"I say $5 to $10 million because additional assessment is ongoing that may result in additional steps that we may need to take," Black said. "It is premature at this point to know for certain, but testing is going on and we will know more very soon."

Resident near the hillside movement began complaining to city officials about damages last year.  Their complaints ranged to cracked sidewalks and driveways, to interior damage to basement walls and door frames.

City engineer Don Gindling said officials have been using inclinometers to monitor the hillside since 1991.

"In the past typically we got about a tenth-of-an-inch per year of movement on this hill and that was at a 40-foot level down where the rock hits the ground," Gindling said. "It was a slow creep. We were somewhat concerned but it was something that was manageable and wasn't that big of a deal."

Then in October, city officials noticed some damage to a sidewalk in front of property owned by the Verdin Bell Company.  The city then installed additional monitoring equipment.

"Between November and January we noticed considerable acceleration of movement,"
 Gindling said. "So instead of a tenth-of-an-inch per year we're now looking at several inches per month. So the movement is very accelerated."

City officials would not offer specific reasons on why they believe the movement recently accelerated.

"We believe this is primarily just an act of nature," Black said. "Are there other contributing factors? Most likely, but can we definitively say it's the weather, it's the railroad system, we cannot definitively say that."

Even after the retaining wall is built, city officials will continue monitoring.  And additional work could be necessary.

"This is phase number one and hopefully that will be the only phase that will be necessary," Black said. "But we don't know if this action that we're proposing here will fully remedy the situation because it's a dynamic situation. We continue to monitor other parts of the hillside and we may be coming back to talk about additional work."

City council's neighborhoods committee has been getting regular updated on the movement.  It will hold another hearing on the issue Tuesday.