Cracking, flooding on pedestrian trail draws complaints

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 | 5:21 p.m. CDT; updated 4:28 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 5, 2011
The South Providence Road pedestrian walkway, which runs from Green Meadows Road to Old Plank Road, is cracking and flooding, but because the project was federally funded through the GetAbout Columbia grant, there's debate about who's responsible for fixing the problem and paying for it. This photo was taken on September 20 in front of Rock Bridge High School.

COLUMBIA — The pedestrian trail on South Providence Road is cracking and flooding, and no one seems to be able to say who’s going to fix it.

The trail, which runs on the west side of South Providence Road from Green Meadows Road to Old Plank Road, is a 10-foot wide concrete trail with a 5-foot wide gravel running trail next to it.

The project was funded by the $22 million federal grant awarded to GetAbout Columbia in 2006 for bicycle and pedestrian improvements that reduced reliance on vehicles. There was about $1.2 million budgeted for the trail, and about $1.1 million has been spent so far, according to a September report for City Council prepared by the Public Works Department.

Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill said he's received about six direct complaints about the trail, but others have come up in conversation. At first, people were commenting on how long the construction was taking, and now they're talking about the inability to use the trail after rain because it becomes covered in mud and debris, he said.

Fred Schmidt, who represents the First Ward, said he’s heard two main complaints: There was "shoddy workmanship," because the concrete on the sidewalk is cracking and sinking, and there are places where the trail is too low and washed out.

The flooding occurs because there is road on either side of the trail, so when it rains runoff water runs onto the trail, which sits at a lower grade. The washed out gravel in that area has been replaced with sod, Jill Stedem, Public Works Department spokeswoman, said.

The city plans to install rain gardens to help retain water. This should happen sometime in the spring of 2012, Stedem said.

At the City Council meeting Monday night, Public Works Director John Glascock said there was a problem with the cross slope of the trail, making it flatter than anticipated. The trail was mudjacked — a process of pumping grout under the pavement — to raise it, but that left holes and cracked the pavement. The cracking could also have something to do with the reinforcing steel bar in the concrete, he said. 

"This is not a small issue," Glascock said. "If you walk this pavement, it is not a small issue."

The reason there's a holdup on resolving the problem is because the project was federally funded, Glascock said. The Missouri Department of Transportation and its inspectors were the ones who decided the project was finished.

Schmidt said this makes the situation difficult because there's nothing that can be done at the municipal level.

"Why MoDOT signed off on it when the work wasn't done well, I'm not clear," he said.

Also, the department will not allow a warranty period or for some of the contractor's payment to be withheld until the job is completed satisfactorily, so the project already has been paid for. If the project had been paid for with city funds, the cracked portions of the trail would have been replaced, according to the September report prepared for City Council.

The city was required to use a low-bid contractor from a list approved and provided by MoDOT. The designer, inspector and contractor are trying to resolve the issue, Stedem said, and Glascock said he's working with the Federal Highway Administration and the state . 

Rhad Baker, the project's contractor, said in an email he thought the project was complete.

On Friday, MoDOT representatives said the department had no jurisdiction over the project.

Thornhill said he doesn't know what's going to happen. He said it's a "lot of folks saying they're not the ones to be held responsible."

Mayor Bob McDavid said at the City Council meeting that the issue is going to continue to be looked into.

"It makes Columbia look bad, it makes the city government look bad, and we've just got to do better, so we need it fixed," he said. 

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Derrick Fogle October 4, 2011 | 6:43 p.m.

Very sad. "Blew the drainage detail" is how I put it earlier. Now everyone is scattering like cockroaches. Except, apparently, McDavid. I hope it does get fixed. Can I run the bobcat to dig the drainage system right?

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks October 4, 2011 | 8:48 p.m.

Stories like this make a person just want to laugh out loud at the stupidity of the whole thing but the fact is is that this is not chump change. This is over a million dollars of tax payers money.
I wrote a letter 3 months ago when they were constructing this thing pointing out the flaws in the design before the first section was cured. You can not build a sidewalk in an area designed to collect large amounts of water run off from 2 different road surfaces and not expect there to be water problems. The only think that is not making this as big of a problem as it will turn out to be is the fact that unlike the past 3 years we have been below normal in rainfall. Everyone from the engineers to the contractors to the people writing the check should be held liable for this mess. Water gardens are a nice idea but they can not possibly handle that much water at a single time. They need to dig up the sections where runoff occurs. Instal drainage pipe and then direct that to the closest storm sewer connector. Problem is that area IS THE STORM SEWER CONNECTOR!!

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin October 4, 2011 | 11:08 p.m.

The city's fascination with concrete trails all over town is bizarre, and this story is one good example why.

Who is supplying all the concrete?

(Report Comment)

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