More than a half-mile of Route 5 asphalt was ruined by CSX machinery clearing wreckage from the June 27 double derailment near Fonda.
“There was some damage where the engine actually hit the road,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Jimmy Piccola, “but the majority of the damage came from the heavy machinery CSX used to clear their rails.”
Just a few days after 45 CSX cars and four locomotives jackknifed off the tracks, the rails were cleared for trains. Route 5 was another matter. A month and a half later, the impacted section of roadway between Fonda and Canajoharie remains closed to traffic.
Piccola said CSX crews used the road as a platform to move their wreckage. Many train cars still clutter the ditch between Route 5 and the tracks, but CSX can finish the cleanup work from its own property.
With the bulk of the heavy lifting complete, DOT engineers surveyed the damage done to Route 5. They drew up plans to direct CSX as it put the repair project out to bid. Piccola released those plans Tuesday and took the time to explain them.
“We had our guys out there,” he said, “and the road has to be totally replaced.”
The current road is two-lane asphalt over a concrete foundation, about a foot deep in total. One engine crashed into the edge of the road, taking out a notch of concrete. A car ended up out on the asphalt surface as well. But those impacts pale in comparison to the damage caused by the repair work.
“When you walk along that section of road, you can see bulldozer treads just pressed into the tar,” he said. “You hit that at 55 and you’re going to be uncomfortable.”
The concrete foundation under the blacktop also was overwhelmed by the weight of the heavy machinery, cracking and breaking in places.
Piccola said the whole road will have to be stripped down to the dirt and rebuilt at CSX’s expense.
According to DOT plans, contractors will be required to lay a foot of gravel for a foundation, covered with another foot of layered asphalt along a 3,075-foot section of Route 5. The ditches, culverts and guard rails are in disrepair and will also be rebuilt or replaced.
The intersection with Martin Road will be built up and sloped into the higher new road.
Piccola couldn’t comment on how much the job will cost, and CSX officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The plans mark some progress toward an eventual re-opening of Route 5. Piccola said a contractor should be on the project within the next two weeks. He said crews will have to mobilize the day they’re hired and work aggressively through the whole project.
“It’s important we don’t disrupt school bus routes,” he said.
Classes begin in early September. If work doesn’t start for two more weeks, road crews will have just a matter of days to build all-new infrastructure.
In all likelihood, the road will still be a work in progress when area children head back to school.
CSX contractors, DOT officials and area school systems will discuss solutions to the bus problem, but Piccola said the half-mile stretch might be open to single-lane traffic by the start of school.