November 8, 2012

Farmington police to enforce Whittier Road closure

Area residents report scofflaws tearing up lawns to get around barricades

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling
Staff Writer

FARMINGTON -- Police will be assigned to enforce the closure of Whittier Road during a football game tonight.

click image to enlarge

The Whittier Road in Farmington is now closed to traffic, due to a nearby unstable and eroding Sandy River embankment.

Staff file photo by David Leaming

Town Manager Richard Davis said the town has received complaints from road residents about people driving on their lawns while going around barricades blocking the road, which could be reopened next week.

"We think it's mostly related to the football games that have been taking place on Kemp Field," Davis said.

The road closure creates a four-mile detour for those coming from the south and trying to reach the field, which is just north of the closed portion.

Davis said one resident complained that a grain bin was knocked over by the unwanted traffic, which has driven on lawns and along a ditch to get around the barricades.

Davis closed the road after superstorm Sandy amid concerns that rising water levels would cause it to collapse into the Sandy River.

The fragile road has been threatened by erosion problems on the riverbank since last year; officials hope it lasts until after the winter, when a plan to stabilize the bank can be implemented.

"We're just trying to do the right thing," Davis said. "Should the bank give way suddenly, we don't want people to be driving over it."

The road was closed when rain associated with the hurricane caused water levels to rise, obscuring the amount of damage being done to the fragile bank.

Now, the waters have receded but Davis said that the road will remain closed until at least Tuesday, pending an opinion from engineer Rick Jones about the bank's condition.

Monitoring wells on the bank show that the soil is saturated, which Davis said can add unwanted weight to the sand and clay.

The long-term prospects of the road remain uncertain. Town officials said during the summer that it will not last until next season, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency declined to classify the situation an emergency.

Davis said he hopes the road can be reopened before the winter, when freezing temperatures could help to stabilize the bank until spring.

The bank stabilization project was delayed because of concerns that it could harm local populations of the endangered Atlantic salmon, which uses the river to spawn.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling -- 861-9287

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