Chesterville road closed after collapse

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CHESTERVILLE — Repair of a section of the George Thomas Road that collapsed late Thursday night is estimated cost thousands of dollars and take weeks of work, road foreman Patrick McHugh said.

The cave-in is about 162 feet long and 35 feet deep, he added.

Representatives from the Maine Geological Survey and Maine Emergency Management Agency are expected to survey the situation Monday morning.

The Geological Survey official is expected to take a look at the type of slide and perhaps give a better idea of what might have caused it, said Tim Hardy, local Emergency Management Agency director.

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The section, which is located about one-tenth of a mile from Route 41 in Farmington Falls, was closed to traffic Friday as portions of the 35-foot deep bank continued to crumble while McHugh and his workers surveyed the damage.

The road in Chesterville winds along the Sandy River from Route 41 near the bridge in Farmington Falls and goes east into New Sharon at Tucker Brook Bridge. Residents beyond the closed portion and people on their way to Sandy River Golf Course will need to travel either to New Sharon, going up Route 134 to George Thomas Road, or travel down Route 41 to the Wheeler Road and go up past the Cape Cod Hill School, McHugh said. It may be weeks before the road is reopened.

A crew and heavy trucks were planning to work on the road Friday after McHugh received a call Thursday from a New Sharon resident warning him that something was wrong. A large crack had developed along the shoulder of the road, he said.

McHugh posted the road with signs and planned the day’s work only to return at 5:50 a.m. Friday to find the section of road, mere feet from the river, had collapsed.

Dennis Lafontaine, who lives across from the caved-in portion, said he heard a loud, strange noise about 11 p.m. Thursday. Struggling to describe it, he said it sounded like “an impact – like something hitting something — like a car accident.” The electricity along that section of the road then went out when a tree hit power lines as the dirt beneath it crumbled.

Lafontaine didn’t realize the road had collapsed until Friday morning and didn’t notice the crack Thursday, although he said he had warned the town last fall about a potential issue with the road.

Swollen river waters over time may have contributed to the collapse, McHugh said, pointing to trickles of water seeping from the side of the collapsed bank. Expected rain on Saturday may not help the situation, he said.

There are also several underground springs in the area, Lafontaine said.

Repair work will involve using excavators to go down to the base of the river and then filling it in with riprap, he said.

About five years ago, another section of the road was repaired with funding help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The town will need to look for assistance again, he said.

EMA Director Hardy was at the scene helping to make calls to Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection, but there is little the county agency can do. It’s a town issue, he said.

Guidance from the Department of Environmental Protection was sought due to the proximity to the river. A representative arrived later in the day, surveyed the scene and provided the necessary permitting paperwork for the repair work, Hardy said later Friday.

abryant@sunjournal.com

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