DIY Sidewalk Disaster

Apparently, DIY Decks aren’t the only infrastructures that can be disasters.

At the corner of Preston and Laurel a little apartment building infill is almost complete. Landscaping is underway. And soon, I suspect, to be torn up and redone at least one more time.

The building and its pavers on top of the roof of the underground garage are presumably flat and square. It’s the sidewalk that is the disaster.

During construction of the hole for the foundation, I noticed the sidewalk had a pronounced dip or sag in it. I don’t know if it had any dip in it before construction. But this Google pic from 2014  with the pre-demolition buildings there, seems to show all is normal…

This building is within 100′ of the lowest point in the Glebe / Dows Lake / Preston neighbourhoods. Water used to run off in Rochester Creek, through the area where the Plouffe Park fields are now, past the Indian resto, and out to Nepean Bay (Ottawa River). But in its wisdom, the city engineers built the Somerset viaduct over the railway tracks as an earthen mound, aka a dam. So what was a valley draining out to the Ottawa River, became a dead end, drainage wise, the bottom of a ward-sized cereal bowl of depression.

When Preston was being reconstructed a few years back, partly to “fix” basement flooding (the sewer being at full capacity as its leaves the Glebe, before it even gets near to Preston …) I suggested the city reopen a ditch or sewer over to the old creek  by the current Trillium Line. Hmm, that would require coordination with the Rail folks … and the NCC … and the parking folks … nope, too complex to negotiate. Instead, they sunk Plouffe Park down 3′ to make it a giant storm basin. Obviously millions of dollars cheaper than trying to talk to another government silo.

Water above the sewer pipe level can drain out of the neighbourhood; but water below that is trapped here, and the soil gets soggy and houses around here get sinky and tilty.

Back to the Present. The builder of the new apartment  building has to do his landscaping and bring it out to the city sidewalk and curb. He repaired the curb, which had sunk, in the same sunken elevation…

He repaired the parking bay pavers up to the curb, but they had sunk too, so the water which should drain out to the V-shaped concrete drain between the parked cars and the travel lane, now drains to the curb. Where it puddles…

The catch basin (just beyond the parked — and tilted — cars in the picture)  is now a high point, and doesn’t drain anything much…

The sunken sidewalk is now below the top of the underground parking garage. So instead of the building sidewalk pavers being flat and flush to the city sidewalk, a retaining wall was installed. It will be a wonderful trip hazard.  The level retaining wall also serves to emphasize how much the sidewalk sags. When you walk along the sidewalk it’s like a roller coaster.

I think it is obvious that a complete redo is in order. The city sidewalk needs to be raised to the height of the building forecourt sidewalk pavers. It should slope / drain slightly to the curb. The parking bay should drain out to the concrete drain along the travelled portion of the street. Presto, no more need for a retaining wall, which could be removed or simply abutted with the new sidewalk.

But who will pay for all this? I suspect this will be expensive (remember, it will be the second time the work is being done). Can anyone determine who’s fault it is the sidewalk and street sagged? Will the City humpf and force the builder to pay, or will it pay for the redo, or split the cost, or worse yet, repair only the City bit and leave the mismatched elevation to the building pavers (I’m taking bets …).

There was also a road cut on the south side of Laurel, going through the brick paver city crosswalk, and damaging adjacent sidewalk squares, which the apartment builder has also repaired. No surprise, it is also low, and puddles, like many of the crosswalks along Preston, since the design model located the crosswalks at the lowest point of each intersection.

Now don’t get the idea this builder or his contractors are especially oblivious, or trying to get away with something. The situation is tricky. Just a few metres further north, the City itself had to replace the concrete drain between the parking bay and the travelled road surface when it installed the flashing ped light crossover across from Bridgehead. They replaced the shallow V-shaped drain with a … concrete hump, like a buried curb. It doesn’t direct water to the catch basin at all.





3 thoughts on “DIY Sidewalk Disaster

  1. Sidewalk sleuthing- a new Little Italy pastime! I think all the mistakes were made on purpose for our entertainment. Thanks Eric!

  2. What continues to amaze, but no longer surprise me, is that city staff continually sign off on substandard work on road and sidewalk repairs. The concept that they should hold the contractor to the same standard as the city employee would expect if the work was done on his/her private property is completely and totally foreign to the city. The example cited in the column about undulating sidewalks and road cut repairs that prevent drainage are replicated throughout this city, and yet our councillors remain stymied about how to resolve the reported $70 million annual shortfall in funding to maintain infrastructure. Perhaps if they started with insisting on higher quality repairs the city wouldn’t be paying to patch the same part of asphalt in consecutive years.

  3. Yes, the sidewalk and road sagged when they excavated the foundation for the new building. The retaining steel they used to line the edge of the foundation hole along Preston wasn’t strong enough and the sidewalk and adjacent Preston Street roadway settled and tilted into the hole. For months they had covered the sag with some plywood to level the sidewalk somewhat, and now they have somewhat raised the sidewalk, but haven’t levelled the roadway. It’s clearly the fault of the builder for not shoring up the hole properly. It’s the fault of the city for not making the builder fix the street as well as the sidewalk.

Comments are closed.