The Route 80 bridge connecting the village of Fort Plain to the town of Minden is open, a little more than a month after the Otsquago Creek floodwater severely eroded its foundation.
“We finally got that thing open,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Jim Piccola. “We’ve had crews working from sunup to sundown out there since 24 hours after the flood.”
He said the opening represents a large state and contractor effort, and a major step in the infrastructure-recovery process.
When the Otsquago Creek leapt its banks at record levels on June 28, the current carried with it much of the Route 80 bridge foundation. The bridge’s pilings, which are usually buried in the earth, were visible above the water.
So much of the bank was washed away that the concrete ramps connecting the bridge’s structure to the road were gone, Piccola said.
Just downstream of Route 80, the same waters eroded the Canalway Trail bridge abutments so badly the large structure had to be removed. The Route 80 bridge, Piccola said, stood against the force of water thanks to 60-foot-deep pilings anchored to bedrock.
Crews had to rebuild the creek bed, rebuild the banks and re-lay entrance ramps to the structure. To expedite the process, crews even used a special quick-setting concrete, all while other crews ripped down the old Canalway Trail bridge and fortified the crumbling bank under Clinton Avenue.
“It’s outstanding the amount of work our contractors were able to do,” Piccola said.
Even with all the work, Fort Plain Mayor Guy Barton said there’s plenty more road to fix. A month after the floods, Abbott, Clinton, Silk and Dairy streets are all still closed.
Over the phone Thursday, he said he was pleased with the Route 80 development and the massive stones coming in by the truckload to rebuild the creek’s ruined banks, but remains cautious.
“I still have to get a whole new road laid on Abbott Street,” he said.
That project, Piccola said, will take another month to complete.
Barton pointed out other infrastructure issues as well. There are still 24 homes with no sewer connection.
“A lot of those places are condemned so there’s no one living there anyway,” he said, “but we have six Porta Johns set up just on Abbott.”
He said the sewer and storm drains ripped up along Abbott Street haven’t been replaced and won’t be for a while.
“We’re looking to get a company in here to vacuum out the sewer,” he said, “Right now it’s just full of sand and rock forced in by the flood.”
The power and gas infrastructure, too, has a way to go. The flood knocked out electricity to 260 homes, National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella said.
A month later, National Grid restoration efforts hit a plateau with 92 homes still without electricity.
“We’ve done everything we can at this point,” he said. “Those places without power haven’t been deemed safe.”
Most of the 92 homes, he said, will take considerable repair before the power is switched back on. Some, namely those 31 condemned homes, might never get back on the grid.
“A flood is much different for us than a big thunderstorm,” he said. “With a thunderstorm we get everything up and running in a day or two. With a flood, there’s lasting damage.”