FARMINGTON — Whittier Road was closed Tuesday afternoon amid concerns that rapidly rising water will destabilize a nearby riverbank and cause the road to fall into the Sandy River, according to town officials.

Town Manager Richard Davis said it’s possible the road will be reopened once the river water recedes later this week.

“We’ll have to see how much soil has been pulled away,” he said.

The area was destabilized in August 2011 when Tropical Storm Irene caused a major portion of the riverbank to collapse.

The distance between the riverbank and the road has been shrinking ever since, as continued erosion threatens to undermine the heavily traveled roadway.

With a permanent solution on hold until next year because of federal concerns about the impact of road construction on endangered Atlantic salmon, local officials have prepared for a possible closure by building a new driveway for an affected home and preparing signs and road barriers.

A plan to establish a bypass around the affected portion of the road is unlikely to materialize, Davis said, because it can’t be coordinated with the Maine Army National Guard until next summer.

Davis, said he ordered the temporary closure as Farmington’s road commissioner using “an abundance of caution.”

Traffic from one end of the closed area to the other now has to use Seamon, Knowlton Corner and Lucy Knowles roads, adding about four miles to the distance traveled.

Franklin County Emergency Management Director Tim Hardy said the water surge has made it impossible to safely monitor the submerged bottom of the unstable bank.

Hardy said projections from the National Weather Service indicate that the water level will peak sometime around noon Wednesday.

While Hardy said he is monitoring several problem areas, the road was the only one that he felt he needed to visit in person Tuesday.

Before making the decision, Davis conducted an inspection of the site with Hardy, Public Works Department head Denis Castonguay and Fire and Rescue Chief Terry Bell.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
[email protected]

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