Cameron Pollack / Sun Senior Photographer

Closed but no closure | Forest Home Drive has remained closed since September as engineers employed by the City of Ithaca try to find the source of mysterious water that is damaging the road.

February 5, 2016

Water Damage From Unknown Source Forces Closure of Forest Home Drive

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Forest Home Drive — which runs along Beebe Lake parallel to North Campus — has remained closed since September, due to erosion from a mysterious water source, which the city has been aware of since June 2014 but has not yet resolved.

The road — which is the main passageway to the College of Human Ecology and Ag Quad, and is mostly used by Cornell students and faculty — is currently open only to pedestrians and bikers.

Leaking water from an unknown source has caused parts of the road to deteriorate, according to the bridge engineer and project manager Addisu Gebre.

“We are still examining the cause of the problem,” Gebre said. “We don’t know exactly where the water is coming from, so hopefully we finalize the investigative aspects of the project in the next few weeks.”

The city does not yet have an estimated total cost of the project, but Gebre said it will be expensive.

The Ithaca Public Works Department is currently working on two project sites — one at the intersection of Thurston Avenue locations of erosion which need to be addressed as fast as possible,” Gebre said. “For the other location, parts of the retaining wall [by the lake] are partially collapsing, so we need to address that problem as well.”

Despite the continued disrepair, Gebre praised Cornell for its help with the reparation process.

“The working relationship [with the University] is very good,” Gebre said. “We had three progress meetings and have visited the site together. Cornell has a contact person dedicated to this project, which is very helpful providing applicable resources.”

According to John Carberry, director of media relations, the city and the University are working in tandem to address this problem.

“Regular meetings, field work and discussion are occurring and will continue until the Forest Home slope failure issue is resolved,” Carberry said.

In light of the current situation, the city is taking more precautions to prevent future erosion problems, according to Gebre. These precautions include closing the road and notifying the public and emergency responders of the road’s condition.

“The city is also working on an emergency response plan,” Gebre added.

Some members of the Cornell community, including Prof. Paul Eshelman, human ecology, do not think the road closure has caused excessive traveling problems.

“The closing of Forest Home Drive does cause some inconvenience, but [it is] not insurmountable,” Eshelman said. “Viewed in a larger context, the partial collapse of the retaining wall that supports the road only serves to illustrate the fragile relationship we have with nature as we attempt to control it. Until an environmentally appropriate and structurally safe solution can be found and implemented, having to take a detour is not a big problem.”

While Gebre said he was unsure when the road would reopen, he estimated that it would likely remain closed for the rest of the year.

The University will make an additional effort to remain in constant contact with the community, in order to prevent prolonged closures such as these in the future, Carberry said.

“We are supporting the city in its efforts, and will continue to provide regular information and support to the Cornell community,” Carberry said.