2014-05-29 / Around Town

Cliff Walk Finish Hits Unforeseen Delay

By Barry Bridges

Crews work on retaining wall along Cliff Walk. (Photo courtesy of Rhode Island Department of Transportation.) Crews work on retaining wall along Cliff Walk. (Photo courtesy of Rhode Island Department of Transportation.) While repairs to the Cliff Walk have proceeded as scheduled through the winter and into the spring, eleventh hour issues with a retaining wall mean that the originally planned early June reopening of the entire trail will be delayed by four to six weeks.

Hurricane Sandy inflicted significant damage on southern sections of the scenic byway in the fall of 2012, and the required restoration has left some portions of Rhode Island’s most popular tourist attraction closed since then.

A $3.2 million contract to rehabilitate the popular walkway was awarded last fall to the John Rocchio Corp. of Smithfield after a competitive bidding process. In February of this year, the original roster of work was broadened with further initiatives to address other problems. With these added elements, the total cost of refurbishing the coastal trail will approximate $5.1 million, a tab which has been borne through state and federal emergency funds set aside for storm recovery.

Cliff Walk Commission Chair Robert Power told Newport This Week that the delay in completion is due to unexpected problems with the construction of a retaining wall along a narrow section of the walk near Miramar. Part of the project’s expanded scope, the 200- foot concrete liner is designed to add stability and to prevent rocks from sliding onto the path. While 160 feet has been completed, the remaining 40 feet has proved to be problematic.

According to Power, work on the wall will take at least another four weeks, translating into a late June completion date at best and mid- July under the worst case.

Notwithstanding the delay, a ribbon-cutting ceremony is being planned for June 24 at the Memorial Boulevard entrance to the walk.

Meanwhile, progress is being made on a new permanent restroom facility at 40 Steps, with very large concrete structures visible in the ground. With a cost of $420,000, the restrooms being built at the terminus of Narragansett Avenue by East Coast Landscaping are being funded through the municipal budget and grant monies. With an anticipated August completion date, they will replace portable toilets currently in use.

The lavatories are part of a bundle of separate projects, which includes the expansion of underground utilities and the installation of a drinking water fountain, bottle filler, bike rack corral, low impact stormwater treatment sand filter, and a sidewalk along Narragansett Avenue to accommodate high pedestrian traffic.

Power also reported that crews have restored the grounds at Rough Point after the dismantling of a temporary construction access road that cut through the property.

David Downes, John Hirschboeck, Peter Janaros, and David McLaughlin round out the roster of the five-member Cliff Walk Commission. The group’s next monthly meeting will be held on June 18.

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