Sandisfield highway chief: 'Road is shot from pipeline work'
SANDISFIELD — Winter is bearing down, blacktop companies are soon to close for the season — and for the last six months, pipeline trucks have given the main road here a wicked beating.
The town's highway chief is hoping to get help from Kinder Morgan before it's too late this year.
"The road is shot," said Bobby O'Brien, Sandisfield's highway superintendent. "And I can't leave it like that over the winter because I can't maintain it in the condition that it's in now. Where trucks have gone around the corner, some of the road is blowing right apart."
O'Brien said trucks with heavy loads like steel pipes and other equipment have been tearing the road up since early May, when Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. began building about four miles of a natural gas line here.
The condition of the roads is one layer of controversy over the Kinder Morgan subsidiary's 13-mile, Connecticut Expansion Project, for which civil disobedience by anti-pipeline activists isn't letting up.
Cold Spring Road, which connects Route 23 with Route 8 in Otis, is now a bumpy ride. It served as the main pipeline access road and is now the subject of much commiserating among residents.
"I avoid it even if I need to drive extra miles," said Hilde Weisert, a part-time Sandisfield resident.
Before the company got regulatory approval for the pipeline, town officials asked Kinder Morgan attorneys for roughly $1 million to buffer the town from budget-busting road and infrastructure damage due to transportation of pipeline equipment.
Negotiations went on for some time, but an agreement was never reached.
In an email to The Eagle, Kinder Morgan spokesman David Conover said there wasn't a contract.
"There is no agreement with the town for additional, supplemental economic benefits," he wrote.
But Conover said that before construction, Tennessee Gas hired an engineering firm to assess road conditions and will restore roads used by the company to their previous condition.
O'Brien said the town itself doesn't have the money for a major road overhaul. And even if he did, it's too late.
"The Lane blacktop plant closes the Wednesday before Thanksgiving," he said. "That's about two and a half weeks to get something done.
Looking for answers
O'Brien said that as the end of the construction season nears, he can't get anyone from the company or its contractor, Henkles & McCoy, to clue him in.
"I got Kinder Morgan a quote on doing that road. It was around $400,000, and I haven't heard back," he said.
O'Brien said he obtained the estimate more than six weeks ago. He said the contractor's foreman isn't able to provide a sense of when the road will be fixed.
"I talk to him every week to see where he stands, but he says `I can't give you an answer. They haven't given me an answer,'" O'Brien said.
O'Brien said he hopes the company will do more than fill potholes on Cold Spring Road.
"Ideally, I'd like to have them come in and at least put 2 inches of binder on the road, but I don't know if I'm going to see that," he said.
In one process O'Brien supports, the road is ground down one foot, re-graded, and layers of stone and oil are added before the tar goes on.
"It's better than just putting patch out there," he said. "I'm hoping to get something. I'm not pushing my luck."
"I'm not saying the road was in pristine shape before [Tennessee Gas] got there," he said. "But they've destroyed it 10-fold over from what it was."
Heather Bellow can be reached at 413-329-6871 at email@example.com or @BE_hbellow
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