Fix for Skyline Trail culvert failure not yet in sight in Hinsdale

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HINSDALE — Hopes are fading that repairs to a famous route through the Berkshires can be made before winter.

Despite having lined up a contractor to fix a small but heavily traveled section of the Skyline Trail, Hinsdale's town administrator now says a collapsed area of pavement may remain until next year.

The trouble spot lies on Middlefield Road near what's known as the Hinsdale Flats, a 1,695-acre state property that encompasses headwaters of the east branch of the Housatonic River.

The road passes through wetlands on both sides, which meant that plans to fix the problem with the road surface and a failed culvert below it had to pass muster with the Conservation Commission.

Robert Graves, Hinsdale's administrator, said that panel upped the ante on the work.

"It's gotten more complicated with the terms that the Conservation Commission has put on it," Graves said.

As the scope of the work has changed, so too has its expected cost. "We are trying to regroup and see if some of the bigger outfits can help us out," Graves said of other contractors.

As of now, traffic cones and small concrete barriers block travel off most of one lane of the road, which runs southeast toward Middlefield from Route 8 south of Hinsdale center.

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Graves said that if the collapsed portion of the road cannot be fixed by December, as now seems unlikely, larger barriers may be put in place for the winter.

Plans for repairs must be approved not only by the Conservation Commission but also by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Officials with the DEP are scheduled to visit the site next week, Graves said, adding, "We've been trying to get them to take a look at it."

Part of the underlying culvert collapsed last spring, Graves said, causing a blockage that no longer allows water to flow freely under the road. Since then, pavement has further eroded. To buy time, Hinsdale borrowed a large steel plate from the town of Washington and installed it over the summer atop the weakened area of pavement.

"Culverts are a huge issue. I'm finding it quite an ordeal," Graves told The Eagle earlier this month. "We want to get it completed as soon as possible."

The section of road where the culvert failed has long been in line for state-funded repairs. That work is at least two years off, Graves said.

A note on the town's website about the culvert problem initially expressed optimism that work would be complete by now.

In the meantime, town officials urge travelers to be careful on the route.

"Middlefield Road is heavily traveled by school buses, emergency vehicles, trucks of all sizes and type, and passenger vehicles," the post reads. "Safety is our highest priority, so please use caution and have patience when going through this area of the road."

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.


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