WASHINGTON CITY – A gradual slide is believed to be the culprit behind the sinking of a portion of Telegraph Street on the hillside heading toward the Coral Canyon subdivision in Washington City. With the likely cause determined after months of surveys and monitoring, city officials say they are now close to resolving the problem – a remedy that will cost millions.
Earlier this year it was reported that a part of Telegraph Street between Washington Parkway and Highland Parkway had begun to noticeably sink and that the city was monitoring the situation.
“It was the end of December when we started to notice some cracks in the hillside,” city Public Works Director Mike Shaw said.
Geotechnical crews later confirmed the cracks were the result of a gradual landslide taking place beneath the road.
Within the year prior to the discovery of the hillside cracks, the road had sunk at least 12 inches or more, Shaw said in February. During that time the city paved and patched the affected roadway to keep it usable.
That part of Telegraph Street hadn’t given the city much grief until after a water line in the area broke, Washington Mayor Ken Neilson said. Following the break, that part of the hillside started to creep at a faster rate.
What was a noticeable yet seemingly smooth pavement-patch on the roadway accompanied by a slight drop on the surface in February has since transformed into a spiderweb of cracks and traffic cones. The four-lane road has been reduced to two lanes and a speed-limit of 20-25 mph has been imposed – at least for those motorists who bother to pay attention.
On the other side of the barricades that line the edge of the road are the visible cracks in the ground, including one that reaches from the roadway and cuts right next to the foundation of a leaning power pole.
While the sight doesn’t paint the prettiest of pictures and is worrisome to city officials and residents alike, Shaw said there is little need to worry about a sudden, catastrophic slide taking place.
“This is a slow-moving slide,” he said. “It’s not all of a sudden going to give way.”
Part of monitoring the hill’s movement has included the marking of up to 30 survey points on the hillside, as well as the installment of inclinometers in the hillside to help determine the size and speed of the slide, Shaw said.
Over the summer, solutions to end the sinking of Telegraph Street were proposed by a geotechnical firm following determination of the cause.
One proposal includes putting concrete pillars into the hillside at a 45-degree angle, the mayor said. Another option involves reinforcing the hillside with additional earth in order to act as a buttress. The earthen-reinforcement would start at the bottom and work its way up the hillside.
“That’s the fix,” Neilson said.
The mayor said he understands and appreciates the frustrations some Washington City residents have toward what they perceive as the city’s slowness to act on the Telegraph Street problems. They wanted to make sure they had the right recommendations, he said, before acting,
“It’s going to be a multimillion-dollar fix,” Shaw said, echoing the mayor’s sentiment. “We want to make sure we go in with a fix that takes care of the issue so we’re not back, in another year, spending another million dollars. We’re trying to avoid that.”
And now that they have those recommendations, the city is moving forward.
“We think, right now, we think we’re there,” Neilson said.
During its Aug. 24 meeting, the Washington City Council unanimously approved a resolution allowing the city to suspend procurement requirements related to its bidding process for road and utility projects. Allowed under state law when either city infrastructure or residents are at risk, this process allows the city to get bids from any company interested in the project. It is anticipated this will help speed up the remedies and get roadwork started sooner.
“We will bid it out, but it will be a very expedited bidding process,” Shaw said to the council. “We will contact contractors that have equipment big enough to move the amount of earth we need moved because it is a very large amount of earthmoving. And we will set a very tight timeframe that they have to move it in.”
In the meantime the city is also working with the Army Corps of Engineers to get permission to work in the wash at the base of the hillside, Shaw told the City Council in an August meeting. They are also working with the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, as it owns property located within the affected area.
Once the proper permits and permissions are obtained and bids are secured, Shaw said repair work on Telegraph could start in January.
The city hopes to keep Telegraph Street open once roadwork begins, Shaw said, as the only other major roadway connecting between that part of Washington City and state Route 9 is Interstate 15.
He also asks that motorists passing through the damaged part of Telegraph Street obey the speed limit and slow down.
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