TREASURE ISLAND — A 400-foot section of a new concrete wall along the city's $1.6 million Beach Trail project is cracking, and no one is quite sure what to do about it.
Project architect Phil Graham is expected to bring a range of solutions to the City Commission in February.
"This is not a question of quality of work," Graham told commissioners last week, assuring them that the problem is not due to a structural defect.
He called the cause a "perfect storm" of factors including the height and location of lighting elements embedded in the wall and the width and length of the wall between expansion joints.
The hairline cracks appeared immediately after the recently poured concrete began to cure.
When the problem was discovered, work on the wall was stopped while Graham and the contractors investigated the cause.
Their solution to prevent further cracking was to put in additional expansion joints to prevent any new cracking — at an estimated cost of $50,000.
But as yet, there is no best solution to fixing the existing cracks.
Also unknown is what the cost to repair the existing cracks will be or who will be responsible for paying for it.
"My suggestion would be to tear it out and do it correctly," said Commissioner Alan Bildz.
"We don't want something patched that we will have to go back and redo every three to five years," Mayor Bob Minning told Graham. "It would be a maintenance headache. Let's do it right and do it right the first time."
That sentiment was echoed by other commissioners, who also worried the problem might escalate.
"My concern is the current situation getting worse. How do we remedy it? It burns me a little bit that we are running into this problem not even 50 days after it has been done," Commissioner Phil Collins said.
When completed in mid March, the entire beach trail will extend for nearly a mile along the Gulf of Mexico.
The portion north of St. Petersburg's Municipal Beach is expected to open within a few weeks.
The trail is replacing a badly deteriorated sidewalk installed nearly 50 years ago.
The new trail will feature a 12-foot-wide walkway, benches and trash receptacles, and a low wall separating the trail from the beach itself. Low-intensity, turtle-safe specialty lighting will be installed at 20-foot intervals.