While using the term “flooding” may be a bit of an overstatement, use of the term “puddle” certainly seems inadequate. The “Amazon Puddle” is more than just a puddle – not only in literal size – but also as symbol of a project that, to some, seems to have gone a bit awry. However, and please excuse the little bit of editorializing on my part, it is important not to “miss the path for puddle,” so to speak.
Parts of the Amazon bike path throughout its entire length were rebuilt last summer (2009) in order to repair concrete deterioration and cracking. This was a project that the path definitely needed, and the project fixed many dangerous cracks and sagging parts of pavement. As someone who has ridden that path almost every weekday for the last two years, I can assure you all that the path has definitely improved, and that the city engineers did fine work.
That being said, the Amazon Puddle, located where the bike path intersects 24th Ave, did not exist before the path improvements. The puddle, during a heavy rain and in its full glory, often covers the entire bike path with water than can sometimes be several inches deep. During a standard rain it covers 3/4 of the path, and often stays at this level for several days. While this is generally only an annoyance to cyclists (presuming they have fenders), this must be endlessly aggravating to pedestrians and runners, who often have no choice but to soak their sneakers. Even when there is a dry passage, it becomes a choking bottle-neck, with pedestrians and cyclists coming from both directions funneled into a three foot wide section of path.
Certainly there are far worse things to worry about in the Eugene area as far as cycling is concerned: the cracks on the Fern Ridge Bike Path, Alder St. near campus, the 18th St. bike lane near Jefferson St., and many more. Why should we care about a mere puddle on an otherwise pristine bike path? Might it be best to just chalk up the incident as nothing more than a sigh-inducing reminder that nobody is perfect, not even landscapers, and leave it at that?
In order to see how the City of Eugene felt about the issue I got in contact with the project manager for the Amazon Path Rehabilitation project, Public Works Engineer Doug Singer. He explained the cause of the problem, and how the city plans to fix it:
We are aware of the puddling issue. As part of the project the shoulders (edges) of the path were graded with top soil and mulch to match the existing landscape for safety and landscape reasons. At this location the grading has created a small hump that is causing the puddle. We do plan to re-grade this area to eliminate the drainage issue. We are planning to schedule re-grading work soon. Grading and landscape work such as this is much easier, cleaner and less expensive under dry conditions.
I also asked Singer about the cracked concrete panels that had to be replaced soon after they were installed. This caused a little bit of worry among some members of the cyclist community about the quality of the project. Worry, which according to Singer, was unfounded: (emphasis mine)
Concrete can crack for several reason during and shortly after construction. […] The new concrete areas that were replaced during construction cracked the same day they were constructed. The contractor replaced the cracked panels at their expense as part of the project. A contractor having to replace new concrete is always unfortunate but it is a standard construction practice. We see this having no impact on the final quality of the project.
Singer also provided some details into the intricacies of the project, how the path has been improved, and why the old path fell apart: (emphasis mine)
The original path was constructed similar to a wide sidewalk, with no rock base and thin concrete. The soil adjacent to the path and in this general area of town is mostly expansive clay that seasonally expands and contracts, especially adjacent to the creek, and the creek banks have shifted significantly since the original path was constructed. The expansive soils shifted the path up and down seasonally, and the shifting bank had left no support under the creek edge of the path which caused failure throughout long sections.
[For the new path] We conducted soil testing and designed a path structure using standard engineering practices. Yes, City maintenance crews do uses the path to perform maintenance in the creek, on the ball fields etc; and ambulances would use the path if a pedestrian or cyclist was injured on the path or in the park. It is standard to design and construct multi-use paths stronger than sidewalks for many reasons. We designed the Amazon Path to satisfy our community needs that should serve us well for 50-years.
Singer will also be the project manager for the much anticipated Fern Ridge Path repairs scheduled for construction the summer of 2010:
This project will work on sections from Van Buren to the connector path from Chambers 200-feet west to the main path; and will reconstruct the Westmoreland connector path from Polk at 22nd to the Art & Technology parking lot (old Jefferson Middle school). Information on this project will soon be available in the web.
The map below marks the above mentioned areas. It is disappointing that there doesn’t seem to be an immediate plan to fix the Fern Ridge Path near the community garden between Chambers and the Arthur/Garfield underpass. That area is one of the most deteriorated and cracked parts of the Fern Ridge Path and will hopefully be added to the project in the future.
WeBikeEugene will keep you updated as both projects continue.