2008-05-01 / News

Seawall to get major overhaul from state DOT

300-foot wall to be constructed in coming months
By Sam Bari

The Conanicus Avenue seawall is getting more than a repair and a facelift, according to the state's Department of Transportation.

"After inspecting the area since the April 16, 2007 storm that collapsed the seawall and the road behind it, we found other problems," state engineer David Morgan said.

The state was considering the project before the storm even occurred, Morgan said. "Then the storm expanded the problem, and after inspecting the area, we determined that just repairing the wall and the road would not be adequate in the long term," the engineer said.

Plans were sent out for bid on Jan. 18 of this year, Morgan said. "They include a seawall built outside of the present seawall, which will double the support. We designed a 300-foot wall for the purpose." Morgan said that the entire sidewalk is being replaced, so island residents will really benefit from an event that was initially a disaster.

Town Engineer Michael Gray said that the engineering department at the state Department of Transportation has kept the town abreast of the state of the project since the beginning. "Initially, they made a substantial temporary repair to shore up the road as well as the existing wall," Gray said. "Everything is safe, and if another storm of that magnitude occurred, the road would not be in danger of collapsing."

Seven companies responded to the January bid, but the project has not yet been awarded, Gray said. Morgan said the bid will be awarded as soon as possible, but several factors that include availability to do the work on a schedule that is amenable to the town as well as the contractor needs to be considered.

"I can't give a concrete answer," Morgan said. "But I assure you, we are doing everything we can to start construction at the earliest possible date. If everything goes well, we'll do the job this summer. I'd like to say that it will be ready for spring, but the extent of the work is much more than was originally considered. Consequently planning, designing, and bidding a project of this dimension required more time."

Morgan said that once construction begins, the town will not be inconvenienced to any great extent. "We'll probably have a construction lane on Conanicus Avenue for a few weeks, but it shouldn't impede traffic to any great degree," he added.

Ed Parker, who was the Department of Transportation chief engineer at the time of the storm said, "We knew we had a problem before the severity of the storm was even predicted. I was at the seawall discussing the project with Town Administrator Bruce Keiser just a couple of days before the storm hit. We talked about bidding out what appeared to be an approximately $600,000 project. Then the worst scenario possible happened. We were slammed by the most devastating nor'easter the state has experienced in years. After the seawall collapsed on Monday, I declared a state of emergency and immediately brought in crews to make repairs to get traffic up and moving again."

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