Patience wearing thin over giant Richmond sinkhole

March 15, 2011 7:46:28 PM PDT
The Richmond City Council could finally decide Tuesday night what to do about that giant sinkhole that swallowed part of a neighborhood last year. The hole is still there and residents are trying to be patient.

It has been nearly a year since a 30-foot deep sinkhole opened up at the entrance to a Richmond neighborhood, swallowing cars and stranding residents.

"That's a long time. April until right now is one year," said resident Stella Lee.

The aging metal pipe blamed for the collapse is out of the creek but still in plain view. The muddy soil is held in place by temporary supports and the only road in and out of the neighborhood isn't permanent either.

"It is kind of unsafe," said one resident. "At some points you can't see if there's a car coming or not."

Residents have tried to be patient.

"They haven't fixed it because you know how much it costs," resident Ramesh Bhatia said.

The possible fixes the city is considering range in scope and price, from leaving the project as is, which costs nothing, to building a bridge which carries an $11 million price tag.

"Make it normal the way it was. Very simple," said Bhatia.

But this project has proven to be anything but simple.

"In the real world you have to go through permitting processes, you have to go through the bidding process and hire contractors so those are the delays," said associate civil engineer Tawfic Halaby. "They're not delays that's kind of par for the course."

State emergency funds cover most of the costs, but cash-strapped Richmond could end up paying as much as $3 million. City engineers are recommending a plan that replaces the old metal pipe with a sturdier concrete one -- that comes with a $12 million price tag.

And yet another wait...

"We could hit the ground with the first shovel a year from now after the rainy season ends because we can't be in the creek," said Halaby.

It could be another year and a half -- maybe even more -- before this hole in the ground is finally fixed.

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