Homeowner Merle Peoples, left, and Eric Laeng, ODOT engineer for the I-475 widening in West Toledo, examine the area where shifting ground stopped work.
Work on part of a retaining wall for the I-475 modernization project in West Toledo has been halted after a crack formed last week in an adjoining homeowner's award-winning garden.
Ohio Department of Transportation officials said they are investigating why the ground shifted behind the freeway's noise wall above the construction site between Northwood Avenue and Sherbrooke Road, and don't yet know if it is a problem severe enough to disrupt the $64 million I-475 widening project.
Homeowner Merle Peoples said he is more concerned about additional damage than he is about the brickwork and other decorations already affected by the crack, which mostly -- if not entirely -- is within an eight-foot ODOT easement at the edge of his property.
"They have an easement along the wall," Mr. Peoples said. "I don't have a problem with it. My concern is the unknown. It could become more serious than I want to think."
The I-475 project includes digging out embankments on either side of the roadway, then building retaining walls, so that one lane can be added in each direction between Douglas Road and I-75. Steel sheet piling has been driven into the ground to stabilize the dug-out embankments until the retaining walls are built.
Dennis Charvat, ODOT's acting district construction engineer in Bowling Green, said soil tests will start in the area Monday to determine whether the excavation, the pile driving, recent rainfall, or some combination of those elements is to blame for the settling ground.
Besides the crack in Mr. Peoples' garden, the settling appears to have caused one slab of concrete pavement on Sherbrooke to sink by about eight inches next to where that street's bridge over the freeway is to be replaced.
Shifting ground caused one slab of concrete on Sherbrooke Road to sink. Work on an I-475 retaining wall nearby stopped, but the rest of the project continues.
"Until we get this all analyzed and figure out what happened," officials won't know if the I-475 project will be significantly disrupted, Mr. Charvat said.
For now, the ODOT engineer said, work on the retaining wall has been halted in the immediate area, but construction continues elsewhere on the project.
There are no known soil problems other than what has been reported by Mr. Peoples, he said.
The garden Mr. Peoples and his housemate, Jonathan Parsons, have developed at their Northwood Avenue home has an elaborate array of trees, flowering plants, and vegetables interspersed with brick patios, paths, and a mosaic driveway to the house.
Visible from both Northwood and Sherbrooke, and sprawling into a vacant, city-owned lot on the Sherbrooke side, it won the Toledo Botanical Garden's Community Garden competition in 2007.
Mr. Peoples said he discovered the collapsing ground early last week. The affected area includes part of his brick driveway; he noted that had his pickup been parked in its usual spot at the time, it would have ended up leaning at a substantial angle.
Mr. Charvat said there is nothing illegal or improper about Mr. Peoples and Mr. Parsons having built part of their garden within the ODOT easement, so long as they understand that the state retains rights to that land. Mr. Peoples said he had no objection to how the state was handling the soil problem.
"ODOT has given me assurances, [project contractor E.S.] Wagner has given me assurances in words, that they'll take care of it," Mr. Peoples said, adding that most inquiries have received responses within 24 hours.