Before leading a tour of state Route 5S in Rotterdam Junction, Fire Chief Shawn Taylor warned state Department of Transportation representatives that there might not be much to see.
But during a “fairly decent thunderstorm,” he said, “this place turns into a battle zone.”
Taylor said the hamlet in the town of Rotterdam has been plagued with flooding issues ever since the big flood in 2011 — when tropical storms Irene and Lee put much of Rotterdam Junction underwater.
“It’s the drainage culverts that are scattered through town,” he said Tuesday outside the Rotterdam Junction Fire Department. “In between those culverts, the elevations have totally changed, so we don’t get drainage from one point to the next — it just hangs out now.”
Kent Destefanis, a resident engineer for the state DOT based in Schenectady County, responded by saying much of that water is coming from side streets owned by the town.
“And the cross culverts that go under those side streets actually are the responsibility of the town,” he said.
After the tour, which was organized by Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, Taylor said he hoped to see town, county and state officials work together to determine “what is theirs and what is not.”
“And then they can fix their own product, basically,” he said.
Walking up and down Route 5S over the course of an hour and a half, Taylor pointed out swollen drainage gullies on the side of the road, crooked culverts and catch basins clogged with sediment and other debris. They all contribute to flooding that sends water into the basements of some neighborhood homes and businesses during storms, he said, and his department often responds to pump the water out.
“It’s hard for me to see that they’ve come so far, they’ve got so much repaired, their homes are looking very nice, very well done and they’re still now getting more water issues from the flood,” he said. “Because this all stems from the flood.”
Sam Zhou, regional director of the DOT’s Region 1 in Albany, said the road itself looked like it is in relatively good shape, but acknowledged that the drainage issues needed to be addressed. He noted that his region includes eight counties, 11 cities and 145 towns, all with their own infrastructure needs.
“We’re glad that the assemblyman came out with us to look at the situation, and we will go back and do our homework and figure out what needs to be done,” he said.
Santabarbara said the 2015-2016 state budget includes more than $2 billion for upstate infrastructure improvements, including road repair, and sets aside $50 million for extreme weather repairs to local roads and bridges.
Of that, the town of Rotterdam received $230,871 in CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program) funds and $32,933 in extreme winter recovery funds.
“We want to see that funding come here to benefit communities like this,” he said.
He said Tuesday’s tour was an important first step in solving the drainage issues.
“Some of them might be simple fixes, some of them might take a little longer, but at least we identified them,” he said.
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