Construction continues at site of Gaithersburg retaining wall collapse -- Gazette.Net


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Nearly six weeks after a portion of the Kentlands retaining wall collapsed on a snowy Sunday afternoon, the construction process to repair the structure is still chugging along.

Neil Harris, board chairman of the Kentlands Citizen Assembly, said construction on the wall is “coming along nicely,” but rainy weather has caused work to extend past the original estimate of six weeks. Repairs now are expected to be completed by the first week in June.

“The weather wasn’t as kind as we would have hoped,” he said.

A section of the wall, near the intersection of Quince Orchard Road and Pawnee Drive, collapsed abruptly at about 4:20 p.m. on March 31.

No one was injured, but two townhouses on Ridgepoint Place were evacuated and subsequently condemned by the city of Gaithersburg.

The wall, owned by the Kentlands Citizen Assembly, is made of hundreds of concrete blocks, each weighing 200 pounds, according to Gaithersburg City Manager Tony Tomasello.

Shortly after the collapse, Harris said the cause of the break was likely due to poor drainage and the association had been preparing to fix the problems before the incident. About $500,000 had been set aside for wall repairs previously, but it now looks like the total price tag will be about $200,000 to $250,000, Harris said.

Since then, significant work has been done to alleviate the drainage problems, including the addition of about two feet of a crushed gravel material to a 75-foot stretch of the wall to prevent future water buildup. Harris said the gravel will replace plywood or a similar material that was there.

“Water will flow through the gravel and under the wall essentially,” Harris said. “Basically, what we’re doing is going back to what the original recommendation was as to how that wall was originally supposed to be constructed and doing that work.”

Attention also has been focused on the the townhomes affected by the break, even though there has been little to no evidence that they were damaged, Harris said. As a precaution, extra supports are being installed in the foundation of the homes.

The two displaced families continue to stay in nearby hotels, paid for by the Kentlands Citizen Assembly, while work is being completed, according to Harris.

Engineers are continuing to look at the rest of the wall and will recommend repairs on other parts of the wall as needed.

jedavis@gazette.net