Irene: Thruway westbound lanes flowing again

This week’s reopening of all westbound Thruway lanes marked a positive step in getting transportatio

This week’s reopening of all westbound Thruway lanes marked a positive step in getting transportation back in order in Montgomery County.

But in-county travel restrictions are expected to continue for another week and in one spot for at least a month as the state Department of Transportation contends with torn-up infrastructure.

The flooded Schoharie Creek put the state Route 5S bridge that spans it out of commission permanently, forcing the DOT to start drawing up emergency plans to reroute the busy roadway over to the former railroad bridge that’s been used as the Canalway Trail.

Route 5S remains closed from Fort Hunter Road in the town of Florida to Noeltner Road in the town of Glen, DOT spokesman Anthony Ilacqua said.

The already crippled bridge — reduced to a single lane earlier this year because of truss structure deterioration — was closed down Aug. 29 in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene’s flooding.

An inspection that followed revealed that the creek undermined the bridge abutments, Ilacqua said.

“For that reason, the structure is not able to carry traffic without extensive reconstruction,” Ilacqua said.

The circa-1929 bridge will be used instead as the Canalway Trail.

Sitting just to the north is the former West Shore Railroad bridge, which came in handy to redirect traffic following the 1987 collapse of the Thruway where it passed over the Schoharie Creek.

It was held up as an example of the right way to build bridges in a raging creek such as the Schoharie in an investigation report that followed the collapse.

“It’s really a strong bridge,” Ilacqua said.

Engineers are performing a thorough inspection on the train bridge, and under an emergency contract, crews are already mapping out a new course for the roadway.

As long as inspections turn out positively, Ilacqua said the DOT is looking to get it open to vehicles in late October.

Ilacqua said the DOT has nearly completed rebuilding Route 5S west of the bridge in the town of Glen. The creek tore a new path during the disaster and washed out Route 5S in the area of the Thruway overpass, Ilacqua said.

It still needs to be paved, he said.

State Route 5, on the north side of the Mohawk River in Montgomery County, remains closed from Fonda to Palatine.

Work to rebuild the road and two culverts that washed out continues and could be complete by the end of next week, Ilacqua said.

County routes

Montgomery County DPW commissioner Paul Clayburn said the department cleared County Route 27 for travel this week.

The roadway — which travels over the Mohawk Dam of the Erie Canal Lock 12 — connects the hamlets of Tribes Hill north of the Mohawk River and Fort Hunter to the south.

The canal structure — the first to take the brunt of flooding from the Schoharie Creek entering the Mohawk River just upstream — is stable.

It was shut down Aug. 28 after a large amount of debris behind the bridge started blowing out the dam’s uprights.

After the second flooding event from Tropical Storm Lee, the roadway was shut down because the Canal Corp.’s “mule,” a machine used to raise and lower the dam’s parts, was left hanging precariously.

Once the mule was secure, Clayburn said the roadway was cleared for travel.

“We wanted to get it open because it’s such a long detour for the people in Fort Hunter,” Clayburn said.

Despite progress with the road, folks in Fort Hunter are still taking a major detour over to the post office in Amsterdam, where their mail is being sent.

U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Maureen Marion this week said the tiny post office building, which had between 65 and 70 box holders, sustained severe flood damage. The building at 274 Main St. won’t be reused as a post office, and a decision on whether to place a post office elsewhere in Fort Hunter hasn’t been made.

Carlisle Road, between Kilmartin and Corbin Hill roads, is still closed as a large culvert replacement continues, Clayburn said.

He said that the road could be reopened by early next week.

The closure of state Route 5 between Fonda and Palatine forced the brunt of traffic between the two onto Hickory Hill Road, Clayburn said, which wasn’t built to handle around 7,000 cars a day.

Some repairs were made to the road to handle the traffic, and it’s safe to use “as long as people are using caution,” Clayburn said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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