About that stone wall atop the Viaduct…

Officials study how to fix Manhattan Avenue Retaining Wall
The North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority is conducting a study on the retaining wall along Manhattan Avenue in Union City near the 14th Street Viaduct.
The North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority is conducting a study on the retaining wall along Manhattan Avenue in Union City near the 14th Street Viaduct.

Hudson County, in conjunction with the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority and the New Jersey Department of Transportation, is conducting a study to explore options for improving and rehabilitating the retaining wall along Manhattan Avenue in Union City, atop Hoboken’s 14th Street Viaduct.
The historic stone wall is near the juncture of Jersey City Heights, Union City, and Hoboken in the Palisades hills. Many sections of the wall are in need of repair or reconstruction due to weather, vegetation, and falling stones.
“The project is important because the deficiencies of the wall need to be addressed while ensuring that Manhattan Avenue continues to serve as important transportation connection for residents and commuters,” said David Behrend of the NJTPA. “Hudson County identified this as a priority and applied to the NJTPA to fund this study and move the project forward.”
The stone masonry wall along the west side of Manhattan Avenue was constructed circa 1912 to 1914. The wall was designed to protect Manhattan Avenue and stabilize the Palisades Cliffs. It rises as high as 40 feet.
The retaining wall needs to be repaired and/or reconstructed to meet structural and stability requirements in accordance with current standards.
The study will cost about $660,000 and is being federally-funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation Grant and executed jointly by the NJTPA, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). There is no estimated cost of the design yet, since they won’t offer possible plans to the public until summer or fall.
As for its historic nature, Behrend said that as of now, “It has not yet been determined what will be done with the historic brick” which comprises much of the wall.

Project so far

The Local Concept Development (LCD) Study is the first step to begin making any necessary improvements.
The NJTPA began the project in September of 2017 and retained the services of French & Parrello Associates, an engineering firm, to complete the study and as part of this project which will include land surveys, community information sessions, and project designs.
So far vegetation growing from the wall was removed in December, as was terrestrial laser scanning of the wall. An aerial survey of the wall was also taken, and French & Parrello Associates have gathered and reviewed available documentation, including old plans from 1906, 1912 and 1914, previous repair plans, reports, and historic photos of the site and wall.
The first public information session was held at Union City High School Performing Arts Theater on April 25. There will be another in fall although Behrend said a time, date, and location had yet to be determined.

“Community involvement is a vital part of this study.”


The next public hearing

For the study, a consultant team — comprised of members of the NJTPA, DOT, Hudson County engineers, French & Parello Associates, and more — will be responsible for community outreach, data collection, developing conceptual alternatives, selecting a Preliminary Preferred Alternative (PPA), and preparing reports.
Officials will hold a second public information session in the fall to reveal the various designs to choose from.
The public may give comments, and officials will chose a preferred design.
By the spring of 2019 the Local Concept Development Study will be complete and then contracts will be awarded to begin the rehabilitation.


The stone masonry retaining wall, and a short section of a concrete retaining wall, stretches nearly 2,800 feet. The wall ranges from 1 foot to approximately 40 feet in height.
In April of 2007, in the midst of heavy rains, a portion of the south retaining wall collapsed, caused by water infiltration and hydrostatic pressure. It was repaired in 2008.
The south portion of the wall had repairs in 1988, 1992, but no known repairs have been done to the North portion of the wall.
Currently the wall has noticeable cracks, missing mortar and stones, areas of bulging, loose stones, and inadequate drainage.

Next steps

Professionals are already conducting a traffic study to analyze the traffic flow and determine available detour routes for future construction work.
Also, thermal infrared imaging is being used to monitor rainwater drainage from behind the wall.
Workers will also perform a site inspection this May and use ground penetrating radar to determine the structural composition of the wall.
“Community involvement is a vital part of this study and we encourage the public to participate and provide input on this project by completing the public comment form …,” states the projects Twitter page.
For more information on the project go to www.manhattanavenuewall.com.
Resident of the area can also fill out a community stakeholder survey at http://www.manhattanavenuewall.com/community-outreach/community-stakeholder-survey/ Or call the project hotline at at 201-564-0119.

Marilyn Baer can be reached at marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.