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Caroline Underpass Wall Collapse Could End Up in Court

Who's responsible for the collapse of a retaining wall at the Caroline Underpass in Latonia?

That may be a question for a judge to answer, Covington city officials told The River City News on Tuesday.

The wall collapsed on Friday in an emergency event that also included a water main break and gas leak. Officials are still uncertain as to which came first, the collapse or the water main break.

The situation forced eight people from four homes on Caroline Avenue where yards collapsed. On Friday, City Engineer Mike Yeager expected the families to be out of their home for a month.

On Tuesday, Yeager said that the best case scenario is three to four weeks.

The good news, he said, is that the houses can be saved. One owner of a home affected told The River City News confidentially, however, that he was told the residents could be displaced "for months" and that is faced with losing a long-term tenant, costing him money in the short and long terms.

One woman had lived in her home since 1946.

The Red Cross was assisting residents over the weekend.

Meanwhile, work will soon get underway on repairing the wall, though Yeager said a determination of who is responsible could end up in a courtroom. A design firm, contractors, the Water District, and the City, and other entities were involved in the reconstruction of Caroline Avenue through the underpass, a months-long project that was expected to allow through traffic to use the route again this week. That intended date was prior to the wall collapse which has moved the project back.

The work, however, will begin anyway on the City's dime. Assistant City Manager and City Solicitor Frank Warnock told The River City News that the City is in talks with the Northern Kentucky Water District about sharing that cost, an estimated couple hundred thousand dollars.

Yeager said that engineers would begin looking underground for more answers on Wednesday.

The Caroline Underpass opened in 1931 and is used frequently by commuters, particularly when a CSX train blocks traffic on Decoursey Avenue.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Scene of the Caroline Underpass wall collapse/RCN file