August 5, 2006 in City

RPS garage to get upgrades

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Documents and stories related to this investigation are archived at spokesmanreview.com/sections/rpscrash

River Park Square officials announced Friday that they will strengthen the mall’s parking garage by attaching steel rods and plates to outside-facing walls.

The announcement comes four months after a Pullman woman died when her Subaru went through a barrier on the fifth floor and 13 years after an engineer suggested erecting cables along the sides to prevent cars from hitting the concrete barriers.

“What these enhancements will do is bring the entire garage up to today’s building code standards, 100 percent across the entire garage,” said River Park Square spokeswoman Jennifer West.

Improvements are expected to be finished by the end of the summer. West said the cost of the project has not been determined.

River Park Square is owned by the Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

Half of the barriers on the first seven floors of the garage do not meet current concrete standards for ductility – flexibility – set in building code, according to a report completed last month by Seattle engineering firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc., which was hired by the mall after the April crash. That includes the barrier that collapsed earlier this year when hit by a car.

Cowles Co. officials have maintained that while much of the garage doesn’t meet current building codes, the law doesn’t require it to do so because the first seven floors were built under codes in force in 1974.

The Wiss, Janney, Elstner report, however, does show that six barriers in the upper levels do not meet building codes that were in place when those three floors were constructed in 1999. Parking spaces in front of those walls have been blocked.

Jo Ellen Savage, 62, was killed when her car fell from the fifth floor of the garage deck onto the entry ramp below. Witnesses have told police she was driving at a low speed.

“Obviously, the Savage family welcomes any action that makes the garage safer for users,” said attorney Robert Rembert, who represents Savage’s family. “Clearly this will not bring Jo back, but it is important and in some ways a tribute to her.”

In all, the 10-floor garage has 268 L-shaped barriers that are about 10 feet long. They are connected to the garage floor, but not to each other.

West said River Park Square has hired Robert B. Goebel General Contractor Inc. to attach the barriers to one another with steel plates.

Wiss, Janney, Elstner recommended the steel plate reinforcements for 68 barriers, West said. River Park Square has decided instead to place the plates on all the walls.

In addition, two L-shaped rods will be erected on the interiors of 49 barriers for further strength, West said.

In 1993, an engineer hired by River Park Square reported problems in the walls and recommended that the garage erect cables to prevent cars from hitting barriers or that the owners conduct more extensive tests.

Neither action was taken, though mall officials have said they performed other tests not mentioned by the engineer and made other improvements.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email