Oliverea Road to open on Friday

By Jay Braman Jr.
There’s good news in Oliverea, where a temporary bridge is expected to open for traffic later this week, but the main bridge entrance to Phoenicia may never be reopened.

That’s according to Ulster County’s Deputy County Executive Robert Sudlow, who was asked about the fate of both the trouble spots, that appeared in late August after Tropical Storm Irene swept though the region.

Sudlow gave an update on the long-closed Oliverea Road, happily telling residents that they will be able to use the road again soon.

“We have put in a temporary bridge. It is scheduled to be open for traffic this coming Friday,” he said.

At press time the metal structure of the temporary bridge had been installed and was being paved over with black top.

The upper portion of the road was entirely washed out during Irene, creating a canyon 30-feet deep and 100-feet wide. Since then visitors and residents of the Slide Mountain/Frost Valley area have had to endure a tremendous traffic detour.

Walking the gap
The lucky ones have left one car on one side of the canyon, driving another from home to the damaged site and taking a short hike on foot over the river and through the woods and getting into their second car. But most drive along a hopelessly long detour on the Peekamoose Road through Sundown and Claryville to get back and forth.

“As we speak we are putting in a new bridge,” Sudlow said.

He said that previously there was only a large culvert pipe under the roadway, but now there will be strong infrastructure to withstand future flood troubles. This takes time though, he added.

“We are only 90 days out from when the flood happened,” he said.
Sudlow said that if all goes well Oliverea Road will be reopened by the end of December, but if the area gets hits by too much snow the project might take longer.
The installation of the temporary bridge does not change the timetable for building the permanent structure, Sudlow said.

On Tuesday Sudlow also said that the county is hiring a private engineering firm to review the Bridge Street bridge in Phoenicia and make a recommendation as how best to proceed. The bridge remains closed following Irene.

“It really took a pounding this time,” Sudlow said of the bridge, which is the main artery for traffic to the business district. “The engineers will look at what will happen to it.”

There has been talk that the bridge should not be repaired because it will only suffer severe damage again, as more and more flooding is expected given the evidence of the effects of climate change. But Sudlow would not say anything about this, preferring to wait until engineers have had a chance to review the situation.

Bids from engineering firms interested in the job are due by the end of this week, Sudlow added.
Some believe that the bridge, which sits relatively close to the currents of the Esopus Creek, actually contributed to the flooding of the Phoenicia business district during Irene because a dam was created by all the debris that got stuck against the span.

Regardless, merchants in Phoenicia say the bridge is critical to the well being of the business district and must be reopened. Improved if necessary, but reopened.