Schenectady County

Irene: Road erosion worsens at Route 103 bridge

Another section of the road leading to the Route 103 bridge has eroded away into the rushing water o

Another section of the road leading to the Route 103 bridge has eroded away into the rushing water of the Mohawk River.

State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Carol Breen said the gap between the road and the bridge structure is now about 50 feet long. She said the flood water washed away more of the soil embankment, causing the sinkhole beneath Route 103 to increase.

Breen said a team of engineers is heading to the scene to do an initial assessment of the damage. But neither the bridge nor the adjacent Lock 9 appear in any danger of collapse, she said.

“At this point, no there’s no danger of the bridge falling,” she said this afternoon. “It’s still sound.”

The bridge has remained closed since the Mohawk swelled in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irene last week. Crews had made initial repairs to the structure and had considered opening the bridge on Wednesday.

But with a forecast of more flooding on Thursday, the state opted instead to keep the bridge closed. After the Mohawk crested, the flooded river carved a new channel near the Glenville side of the bridge on the north bank.

A 30-foot section of the road collapsed on Thursday afternoon, prompting fears the bridge or lock might also topple. State officials ordered all of the county’s bridges across the Mohawk closed for about two hours until engineers could determine whether the river was eroding away other structures.

The Route 103 bridge is free-standing and not attached to the adjacent Lock 9 structure. Only the so-called lock mules — mechanical devices that traverse the lock to raise the moveable dams — are attached to the bridge.

Breen said state officials are still trying to determine how much damage was done to the bridge footings, which remain submerged in the Mohawk. Until the water recedes, she said it will be tough to assess how long the bridge will remain closed and how much its repair will cost.

“They really need the water to recede before they do a full assessment,” she said.

The flood damage to the bridge also prompted National Grid to cut off the main natural gas line feeding Rotterdam Junction on the south bank of the Mohawk. The line runs beneath the pedestrian walkway along the bridge and was being pummeled during the height of the flooding.

About 400 customers were without gas on Friday, including the Rotterdam Junction Fire Department, which has been used as a relief center since the initial flood last week. The service interruption also shut down the SI Group factory in lower Rotterdam Junction.

National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella said there’s no timeline to get service restored to the hamlet. He said the further deterioration of the bridge abutment means service will likely be off until the company can devise an alternate method to deliver gas service to the area.

“It’s going to be several days at the very least,” he said.

SI Group spokeswoman Juliana Lam said the outage shouldn’t have much of an impact on the company, which has remained open through much of the flooding of the past two weeks. A gigantic flood wall was built around the plant’s bank on the Mohawk and designed to protect the chemical manufacturer against a 500-year flood.

“That essentially saved us in this situation,” she said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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