A cavity formed in the 80-foot wall during last year's April nor'easter. As a result of accumulating rains and mounting water pressure, a portion of the cliffs fell onto the viaduct that connects Union City, Jersey City, and Hoboken.
Though a veil of tarp that had been covering the cavity for months has been lifted, officials only expect to begin construction of the new aesthetic wall during the summer.
"We want to [erect] something aesthetically matching," said Assistant County Engineer Demetrio Arencibia of the county engineer's office.
Added Arencibia, "Whatever wall we put up is going to be an engineered wall, and something that will account for water mounting pressure in the future."
Arencibia anticipates a design for the wall and contract bid to be announced during the summer.
Noting that the original wall, dating back to its 1934 construction under President Roosevelt's New Deal Program, "might have been fine" at that time, Arencibia said the new wall will be "better engineered to account for ground and water pressure."
Officials say that plans for the new wall are currently being designed by county engineers together with Maser Consulting P.A., a major consulting engineering group in New Jersey.
Arencibia said the project had experienced some delays due to federal paperwork and applications that would secure compensation for the estimated $2 million county project.
Said Arencibia, "The federal paperwork process takes time and there's a lot of material that has to be prepared for that - and that's part of the ongoing process. It's been about a one-year time frame since the storm has passed us, and since then we've been securing consultants. The process has taken time but [the wall] should be going under construction and [we expect] to repair it to its former condition soon."
According to Arencibia, the project is roughly estimated to cost $2 million. Officials expect to secure federal compensation for anywhere between 70 to 80 percent of that amount, or between $1.4 and $1.6 million.
Before the county sees compensation, however, the project must be completed. At that point, the county will send receipts to the state's Department of Transportation (DOT). In turn, the state DOT will apply to receive those funds from the national Federal Highway Administration under the Federal Emergency Relief Funds - funds secured for roadway and highway disasters.
Because Manhattan Avenue qualifies as a federal route system (together with other roads including Kennedy Boulevard and Boulevard East), it can only secure federal emergency relief funds. Since it is eligible for other funding, the road does not qualify for FEMA.
"If it wasn't qualified as a federal route system, we would be able to get FEMA money [for the project]," explained Arencibia.
How it happened
The wall on Manhattan Avenue crumbled during last year's April 15 nor'easter that flooded many towns.
That Sunday evening, heavy rains from the nor'easter combined with water seepage, infiltration, and culmination, blew out the south side of the viaduct sometime after 10 p.m., spewing bluestone, granite, mortar, and structural bars onto the road. Officials measured the collapse of the wall to extend 150 feet.
At the time, James Kennelly, spokesperson for the Hudson County Executive, said "The wall, which was built in 1934, was never meant to be structural, but purely decorative."
Kennelly added, "Water collected above the wall, and overtime infiltrated. The wall wasn't designed to carry that pressure and eventually gave way like a dam bursting."
The accident yielded neither injuries nor fatalities.
Nicolas Millan can be reached at NMillan@hudsonreporter.com.