Feb 8, 2016
The Lehigh Parkway Entrance Wall
When the Lehigh Parkway wall collapsed last summer, it was no surprise to me. The city already had barricades along the leaning wall for three years. During that time the city had two chief engineers and three park directors, none of whom made the wall a priority. During those years I spoke with all five of them, and got five different stories. We are now informed that the missing section will be replaced by May. The new wall section is to be poured concrete, faced in stone along the Parkway entrance. I have received several inquires as to my opinion of this plan. As the main advocate for the WPA, I have no problem with this method of replacement construction. In addition to being a barrier along the road, the wall is primarily a retaining wall, holding up the roadway. Concrete will satisfy the engineering requirements, and the visible portion will be faced in the original stone. This method was utilized at Union Terrace, when the Union Street bridge was replaced last year. So, while I approve of the planned method, some other observations and criticism are also in order.
The wall was a victim of neglect, as is most of the WPA structures throughout the park system. The wall was in dire need of mortar repointing, especially on the top. That particular entrance was built with a concrete drainage swale along the road, to keep rainwater from pushing against the wall itself. At some point the swale was paved over, extending the macadam right to the wall. I suspect that vehicle weight exerted enormous pressure through the macadam now against the wall, especially being on a curve. For a number of years now, since the closing of the park depot by the stadium, heavy trucks have added to the exerted pressure. Last, but not least, in heavy storms, the manhole covers blow off at the top of the hill, resulting in enormous amounts of water rushing against the wall. I hope that the city addresses these issues, so that more sections of the original wall are not endangered.
In addition to replacing the missing section of the wall, they will also repoint just a small portion of the remaining wall. For a city that just spent $1.4 Million dollars to buy unneeded, distressed land from a Pawlowski campaign contributor, it is a crime to have neglected these WPA structures.
surveying the fallen wall day of collapse