Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
New London Road on Lowell Hill south of Lowell remains closed to all traffic and will be for the foreseeable future.
Henry County Engineer Jake Hotchkiss told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning that a contractor is making progress on stabilizing the roadway.
“FYE Excavating removed pavement in that section on Friday and Saturday,” Hotchkiss said. “Yesterday (Monday), they started removing the overburden — the dirt — as part of the emergency work to slow the slide movement. We’re trying to get the extra weight off the road.”
He said that there are limitations to how deep they can go to remove the material because of underground utilities in the area.
Hotchkiss said that they will remove about 7,500 yards of material from the roadway.
“That’s a substantial amount of material that we’re going to be pulling over 1,200 to 1,400 feet,” he said.
He said that the contractor estimated that the work will continue through this week, but Hotchkiss said it may take a little longer.
“I would say it would take all this week and part of next week,” Hotchkiss said.
Once the overburden is removed, the next step will be assessing whether it is safe to install a temporary road.
“Once we pull off the overburden that we can, we will assess whether or not we can fit a temporary road into the south in our existing right of way,” Hotchkiss said. “We can’t commit to that yet until we see if we’re somewhat confident that the movement is slowing down. We won’t know that until we get this extra material off.
“It would be a gravel surface for winter while we work on the final design and prep work for the final alignment of that road.”
He said that a new temporary road, if they are able to put one in, would be about two feet lower than the old road and moved several feet south, away from the hillside that leads down to the Skunk River.
“We are sliding the road over,” he said. “If we put a new road it, it will probably be two feet lower and shifted further back to the south as tight as I can to the right of way and still have a two-lane gravel road to go through there.
“We’re looking at where the cracks were and trying to get that road shifted outside of those cracks.”
Hotchkiss said last week that any project to permanently repair the road would be costly, and he was seeking support in securing an emergency declaration from the state. That declaration would make emergency funds available to help cover the cost of repairs.
“There has been work in the background trying to get that declaration,” Hotchkiss said Tuesday. “There are no answers yet, officially, but we had a productive week last week. We’ll keep trying to find a way to fund this project.”
The county is seeking the declaration based on their assessment that heavy rains in June and July raised the level of the Skunk River.
Hotchkiss said that when the river level dropped, it pulled a lot of moisture out of the hillside, causing the north lane of the road to slide and create huge cracks in the pavement.
In the meantime, the road remains closed to all traffic.
“We have the barricades up, but we have had some trouble with people going through there,” Hotchkiss said. “The barricades are there that say ‘road closed.’ We ask people to respect that. It is a safety issue more than any other reason.”