West River Parkway reopens September 1 at 4:30 pm

Posted on August 31, 2016

A view of the repair slope on West River Parkway just south of 4th Street
Five retaining walls (three visible here) and a host of new underground infrastructure will help prevent future slope failures

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board announced today that the segment of West River Parkway that has been closed for more two years, from 4th Street S to E 24th Street, will reopen at 4:30 pm on Thursday, Sept. 1.

The segment was closed following record-breaking rainfall in Minneapolis throughout June 2014. Just before 7 pm on June 19, 2014, a torrential downfall compounded by heavily saturated soils caused a steep, 100-foot wide section of the west bank of the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis to fail. The slope failure created a mudslide that sent a huge quantity of mud and debris rocketing down the riverbank, across West River Parkway and into the river. The episode took about three seconds.

Fortunately no one was hurt. Within one week the mudslide debris was cleared and a temporary cover was placed over the slope to shed water and prevent further erosion. However, buildings critical to Fairview Health Services hospital operations now sat near the edge of an unstable cliff. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and Fairview worked together for months to determine how to repair the slope while keeping the hospital secure and parkway and trails protected. The project proved to be challenging from an administrative, engineering and construction perspective.

Left: Substantial repairs were needed to shore up the wall of the boiler plant serving Fairview Health Services facilities. Right: Progress made through September 2015.

Two months after the mudslide, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) added Hennepin County to Disaster #4182, which provided critical funding for cleanup, emergency protective measures and permanent repairs. Careful compliance with federal and state regulations was required to receive funding for these costly measures.  

Permanent repairs to the slope began in July 2015 and were scheduled to be complete by November 2015. Weather was mild that fall, but construction of the wall at the top of the slope was plagued by almost-daily slope failures below it. Loading limits and lack of working space on hospital property, the steep incline, 100 feet of elevation change and groundwater seepage all contributed to construction challenges. The construction schedule was extended into summer 2016. 

For the public’s safety, a section of the parkway and trails remained closed during the investigation and repair of the mudslide. Also, beginning in May 2016, Hennepin County needed to keep a section of West River Parkway closed to reconstruct the Franklin Avenue Bridge. West River Parkway and West River Parkway Trail will reopen on Sept. 1, 2016 at 4:30 pm. The MPRB sincerely appreciates the public’s patience while work was performed.

West River Parkway Slope Repair Project Overview

  • Five retaining walls – three near the top of the slope and two at the bottom – work together to stabilize the slope and reduce its incline.
  • A network of new underground drain tile will redirect groundwater to an improved storm sewer system that will prevent surface storm water runoff from saturating the slope’s soil.
  • The previous poor, unconsolidated soil was replaced with more structurally stable soil.
  • New vegetation, once established, will help anchor the slope.
  • The parkway and trails were repaved and guardrails replaced.

Please visit the West River Parkway Slope Repair project page for more information, including a Project FAQ and detailed timeline of the repair process.