Living on edge

Residents at 43rd & Stevens have dealt with more than noise and vibrations from Crosstown work

Dawn Wikner’s home at 4300 Stevens Avenue was for sale before the now infamous Crosstown reconstruction project consumed I-35W just outside her front window.   

She took her house off the market late last year and even though she still wants to move, she can’t imagine that happening these days.  

“There’s no way we could put it up on the market now. There’s a million reasons now,” she said. “There’s a condemned house next door, there’s a crater in the front yard, there’s structure damage so it won’t even pass an inspection.”

Wikner’s home was one of three on her block — 4310 and 4312 Stevens Avenue were the others — inspected for damage by a city-hired firm in January after a water-main mishap caused the ground to shift.
A chunk of Stevens Avenue in front of the homes disappeared and portions of the boulevard, sidewalk, retaining walls and front lawns cracked and slumped toward a massive hole.  

One home, 4310, had to be evacuated because it moved several inches off its foundation and was deemed unsafe. Project contractor Ames, Lunda, Shafer is renting a house for the owner, Kathlyn Stewart, while working with her insurance company to assess the damage. Stewart couldn’t be reached for comment, but City Council member Elizabeth Glidden (8th Ward), who has been in touch with her regularly, said her basic needs are being met.

“It was unfortunate what happened,” said Crosstown supervisor Steve Barrett, a resident construction engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). “But in this particular spot, the work called for putting in a very deep water main and the initial efforts that the contractor took to dewater that site and stabilize the excavation obviously didn’t work out as they had planned.”

The excavation work went all the way down to the water table, requiring crews to temporarily drain part of the area. That draining, combined with a leaking water distribution pipe in front of 4310 Stevens, caused the earth to shift. The inspection report, done by engineering firm Bonestroo, called the shift “classic global slope stability failure.”  

Barrett said the incident was unique to the area and he doesn’t expect it to happen again at any other section of the project, which stretches from 66th Street to 42nd Street. The deepest of the work in front of the 4300 block of Stevens is done, so the situation should only improve, he said.

“We’re reasonably confident that things are stable, even though there is still some fill that needs to be placed,” he said.

But at 4312 Stevens, Ronald and Rosa Elliott were concerned in early May that their situation was worsening. They pointed out a noticeable gap where their concrete steps had pulled away from their porch and another where their sidewalk disconnected from the front of their house.

The Elliotts also had a noticeable crack in their front lawn, which extended to Stewart’s property at 4310, and cracks in their retaining wall and adjoining concrete staircase. The Bonestroo report noted some of the damage, but did not mention the separation of the porch steps.

Along with many residents living along the Crosstown project, the Elliotts plan to file a damage claim with MnDOT at the project’s end. But they did not have their home inspected prior to construction, as was offered to residents in the immediate construction area, which could make construction damage harder to prove.

“If I had known it was going to be this bad, we would have called somebody to do something,” Rosa said.

Wikner did have a pre-construction inspection, and she’s glad she did. Her house has suffered cracks in the foundation and in the interior walls. Existing cracks in her retaining walls have also grown. The Bonestroo report said none of the damage was structurally significant, but Wikner doesn’t want to pay for it.

The single mom owns the home with her ex-husband, who no longer lives there. A roommate who worked nights couldn’t stand the daytime construction noise and vibrations and moved out. If only she could sell, she would too.

“I just don’t think anyone’s going to want to live in this situation,” she said. “I don’t. I certainly don’t at all.”

Barrett said the project in front of the 4300 block of Stevens Avenue should be complete by the end of the summer, minus cosmetic finishing. For more information on the Crosstown project including regular project updates, visit www.dot.state.mn.us/projects/crosstown.

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or [email protected]