April 29, 2014

After 2012 Gorge Death, Ithaca Will Improve Cascadilla Gorge Path

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Planning for a project to improve the uppermost portion of a walkway along the north rim of Cascadilla Gorge will begin this summer, with construction likely to end in 2015, according to City of Ithaca Transportation Engineer Tim Logue.

Discussions over the safety of the walkway — which extends along the top of the gorge between Stewart Avenue and Linn Street’s intersection with University Avenue downtown — began when Alan Young-Bryant M.A. ’07 Ph.D. ’11 died after accidentally falling from the pathway into the gorge in December 2012, according to Logue.

“There was quite a bit of discussion after the gentleman fell,” Logue said. “It certainly brought the attention to the condition of the walkway, all the way from the top down to the bottom.”

The project — allotted $51,000 for engineering, construction and inspection by the Common Council — will address maintenance problems “along the first property” on Stewart Avenue, according to Logue.

“We did look at a number of different alternatives on how to address this area, including looking at the entire length,” Logue said. “The final decision from Council was just to fund this part, close to the top of Stewart Avenue.”

The project will not affect private property or widen the pathway, according to Logue. He said the highest priorities for construction work are fixing the concrete paving and installing a new railing.

“There’s a lot of broken concrete, and the railing is certainly old,” Logue said. “We’d want to make sure that the rock underneath the sidewalk is satisfactory.

Currently, the pathway is open to pedestrians and is not dangerous due to a fence that Public Works secured along the walkway, according to Logue.

Logue said the City is still in the initial stages of planning the project.

“We’re hoping to make our decision on how we’re going to do the project in the next few weeks,” he said.

The whole project will likely take approximately two years, including approximately six weeks to create a railing and one to two months for concrete work, according to Logue.

“Setting up the work zone is one of the more complicated parts,” he said.

Logue added that the City is “leaning towards” hiring an outside engineer for design work, particularly for the new railing because the City does not currently have the resources.

Logue said the city would most likely hire a local engineer if the individual has “good value and good qualifications,” however he said he cannot guarantee that the construction — if put out to bid — would go to a local company.

Alderperson Stephen Smith (D-4th Ward), who represents Collegetown, said he thinks it is important to maintain Ithaca’s gorges.

“I think the sooner we can make the gorges more accessible, the better,” Smith said.