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Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

MAKING WAY: NYS DOT engineer-in-charge Frank Sander points to a hoe-ram punching its way through the rock wall which abuts Route 97 west of Hankins. The DOT deemed the wall too dangerous and has reduced traffic to one lane along this portion overlooking the Delaware River.

Route 97 Project Ongoing

By Ted Waddell
HANKINS ÷ September 15, 2000 ö The NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) thinks itâs a good idea to rock before it rolls at a series of rocky outcroppings along Route 97 just north of Hankins.
Several weeks ago, NYS DOT began the estimated $3 million reconstruction and rock slope stabilization project in the Town of Fremont. The project involves removal of approximately 20,000 cubic feet of dangerously fractured sandstone and bluestone looming above the roadway, because the state agency feared it would continue the natural exfoliation process and come crashing down onto the road, possibly injuring passing motorists.
The first phase of the two-part project was started in July and is expected to be completed before the snow flies. It involves scaling the rock back to a safer position, said Frank Sander, Engineer-In-Charge of NYS DOT Region 9.
ãThe rock was falling down and creating a very dangerous situation,ä said Sander.
Phase two of the project involves rebuilding a retaining wall overlooking the railroad tracks below and relocating utility lines. Sander said this part of the project should start in the spring and be finished by next summer.
ãThe road dates from 1933, and the retaining wall was built in 1974,ä he said. ãRight now, the road is slipping toward the railroad tracks on the lower side.ä
The rock slope is being scaled by a crew of 13 using large excavators equipped with hydraulic hoe-rams to break up the fractured bluestone in order to reach more stable rock. So far, the crews have been able to scale the 1,500-foot slope without resorting to blasting.
After the hoe-rams break up the rock, the material is loaded into trucks by large backhoes and trucked to a storage area at the top of nearby East Ridge Road. Once the heavy equipment clears an area from ramps built of crushed rock, special crews rigged up in safety harnesses swing back and forth along the high rock walls, removing loose rock by hand.
ãWe need to get back to solid, stable material that will stay in place,ä said Sander.
The contractor for the job is A. Servidone, Inc. (AIS). Guy Rucki of AIS serves as project superintendent.
ãI think the project is going along as we figured,ä he said. ãWeâve had no major problems. Weâve worked the bugs out of the trafffic [situation].ä
At first, NYS DOT considered closing 97 at the project site, a plan that would have forced motorists to travel many miles along detour routes. As a result of emphatic public comment, the state agency decided to use flagmen to temporarily close the site to traffic during hazardous operations, and install traffic lights set at three-minute cycles during non-working hours.
According to Rucki, the normal workday is from about 7 a.m. until 5:00-5:30 p.m. on weekdays, except Fridays (ãwhen we try to be out of there by three oâclock in the afternoonä). The crews donât work on weekends or holidays.
ãAfter we installed signs [at both ends of the work site] explaining the length of the signals so people can expect the delays and know what theyâre getting into, people have been nice about waiting their turn,ä said Sander, a 43-year veteran with NYS DOT.
The signs read, ãYou Must Stop on Red. 3-Minute Light Cycle.ä

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