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

6 comments:

Rich Fegley said...

$1.4 million to stop Atiyeh from fighting with Pawlowski. I think the Feds will simply show this as a bribe. I'm sure Fleck got this one on tape.

The $1.4 million was "windfall" money from the water lease that Dougherty and Schweyer spent like it was gift from heaven. Useless park land is how this needed money was spent.

They spent $5 million total. What did we get so far for that $5 million?

Honestly, what did we get so far? Useless park land is just one thing. Council rubber stamped it all. They will never talk about this.

michael molovinsky said...

rich@8:16, yes, council was party in a number of park abuses. in addition to wasting taxpayer money on the unnecessary purchases, they allowed the wildlands conservancy to demolish two dams, for no useful purpose. the very small robin hood dam was built with the bridge in 1941. the fish hatchery dam was built by Harry Trexler, and it's removal resulted in the massive fish kill during a storm 6 months later.

the wildlands has a contact at the Pa. DEP, and the dam removal agenda is a grant vehicle, in which they keep a percentage for "administrative fees". gotta love the corruption in pa. unfortunately, the wildlands has become a local sacred cow, another lehigh valley feel good group for the establishment.

Anonymous said...

The Allentown City Council president was either not entirely knowledgeable about the causes of the collapse of this structure, or was not entirely forthcoming. Observers can draw their own conclusions.

Anonymous said...

At least I can run in the Lehigh Parkway now without fear of getting run down by speeding cars.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for keeping tabs on this repair.

Michele McLaughlin said...

Thanks Michael, I have been wondering about the funding of the Conservancy. I appreciate you find this out!