Minneapolis park officials have reversed their three-week-old decision to reopen West River Parkway by Jan. 1, an about-face that means that the parkway isn’t likely to reopen until next September, or almost 27 months after a mudslide closed it.
The public announcement Wednesday at a meeting of park commissioners — several days after commissioners were informed — represents another in a series of missed completion dates that have plagued what officials describe as a tricky project.
Park officials said they relied on an earlier contractor schedule in announcing the New Year’s reopening. But that didn’t hold up. They prefer to wait until spring when the ground thaws to drive in giant nails designed to hold new retaining walls in place.
The parkway already was scheduled to be closed starting in April for planned work overhead by a contractor for Hennepin County that will replace the deck on the Franklin Avenue Bridge. That work is scheduled to be done by early September.
The mudslide occurred in June 2014. Park officials said that September that the parkway wouldn’t reopen until August, 2015. Then in January after letting a contract for the job, they pushed that back to October. But construction didn’t start until early July. In September, completion was delayed to December. On Nov. 20, reopening the parkway by Jan. 1 was promised.
The project involves installing a series of five stabilizing walls on a steep slope with fragile soils at the edge of Fairview-University Medical Center’s heating, cooling and emergency generating facilities. Michael Schroder, assistant parks superintendent, said the two lower walls can be completed after the parkway reopens but it’s too risky to open the parkway to the 6,900 motor vehicles, 1,000 bikers and uncounted pedestrians who use it until work on three walls high up the slope is completed.
River-area commissioners John Erwin and Scott Vreeland said they’re constantly peppered at the grocery store with questions from constituents frustrated about the lengthy detour and delay.