Looking Back at Irene: Mohawk Trail

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One of the Twitter hashtags iBerkshires frequently used in describing some of the damage around the county was #Irenebrokemyroad. That was never so true as in the case of Route 2.

by the numbers
• Excavation: 37,000 cubic yards
Trench excavation: 28,000 cubic yards
Channel excavation: 50,000 cubic yards
Fill deposited: 78,000 cubic yards
Rip rap installed: 78,500 tons
Gabion walls erected: 5,300 cubic yards
Stabilized slope construction: 12,000 square yards
Steel piles driven: 2,300 feet
Soldier pile & lagging walls: 1,000 feet

Some 13 miles of the historic Mohawk Trail was buried, broken, washed away, undermined or otherwise made impassable after the passage of Irene. The damage left small towns along the state highway isolated, their residents forced to take long detours to reach schools, stores and hospitals. It cut off North Berkshire from I-91 and Greenfield.

It also disrupted the important fall foliage season for tourists, shops and motels and delayed the ability of some to begin college classes on time.

Word was the highway wouldn't open for at least a year, maybe two.

On Friday, Sept. 30, just a month after the storm, state officials pledged to get the road restored by Dec. 15. They beat that deadline by two days.

The massive effort, costing around $23 million, was recognized on Monday, Aug. 27, as the American Public Works Association's Public Works Project of the year. The total cost for repairing the containments along the Cold River along with the highway, bridges and slopes was expected to be more than $36 million.

The Mohawk Trail was just the biggest project; dozens of smaller roads and culverts were damaged, particularly in the higher elevations.

According to our reports at the time, MassDOT listed more than 25 separate, damaged road locations, including along Route 2, Route 8, Route 20, and Route 112. The Massachusetts Turnpike also sustained damage.

A map of the closed roadways show a north/south pattern along the county's eastern edge and into neighboring Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties.

Sections were being repaired that day, or waiting for the waters to recede or, in some cases, for months. Some are still not fully repaired a year later, including Crest Street in North Adams, East Road Bridge in Clarksburg and the Charles Street Bridge in Adams. All three locations were topics in recent articles as local officials have sought ways to fund or engineer their replacements. 

Overall, Western Mass. received some $41 million in federal aid for infrastructure repairs related to Irene.





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