Part of Airmont Road, one of Rockland's busiest thoroughfares, will close from July 18-20 so the railroad crossing can be upgraded.
Drivers will face detours and possible traffic headaches when part of North Airmont Road closes for three days in July for railroad track work.
Located between Route 59 and the New York state Thruway, the railroad crossing is known for its ruts and potholes. The immediate area around it will be closed starting at 10 a.m. on Friday, July 18, until the evening of July 20, Ramapo Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence said Wednesday.
Businesses, which include a gas station, restaurants and hotels, will remain accessible from Airmont Road but drivers may need to use another route to reach them. Montebello and Spook Rock roads will serve as the primary detours, the supervisor said.
St. Lawrence recently struck a deal with Norfolk-Southern Railroad to upgrade the tracks on the largely unused line. Workers will remove 120 feet of existing track and replace it with a single unit to be assembled on site. A rubberized material surrounding the tracks will provide for a gentle ride.
An upcoming track repair project in Airmont will close Airmont Road for three days, starting July 18. The freight line is owned by Norfolk Southern and is actually only used once a week to reach a lumber company. ( Video by Tania Savayan/TJN ) Video by Tania Savayan/The Journal News
"We want to take the three days of pain and get in a product that will last for 20 years," St. Lawrence said a few feet from the crossing, where a steady thump of tires could be heard smacking into damaged road. "It will make it a much smoother crossing."
It would take two weeks to do it without closing the road, he said, with no guarantee the rubber flange system would be used.
Gene Maracich has driven Airmont Road almost every day since he moved to the Ramapo village seven years ago.
"There's too many bumps over here," the 77-year-old said. "I know it's there so I slow down."
The town has met with local emergency responders, the Rockland County highway department and state Thruway Authority to plan for the closure.
A Thruway spokesman said plans were still being developed but variable message signs will likely alert drivers of the change a week beforehand, and motorists will be advised to seek alternate routes when possible to avoid Exit 14B.
Norfolk-Southern is picking up the cost of the repairs, St. Lawrence said. That's a bit surprising considering it only uses the former Piermont line once a week to make deliveries to Dykes Lumber in Tallman. A railroad spokesman said they were still working out details on the project.
Rail workers will do preliminary testing at the site starting June 15.
Airmont Road falls under county jurisdiction, but St. Lawrence said the patchwork of fixes hasn't prevented residents from calling to complain of flat tires and broken axles. He said full-fledged repairs needed to be made.
"We've been asking for this for a decade," he said.
He said to ensure the project got done, the town will cover the police costs related to manning the detours, while the county will provide equipment like electronic message boards. Only emergency vehicles will allowed to use Dunnigan Drive to access the other side of the tracks.
There is also the possibility that the railroad will put down steel plates so people can travel over the tracks on Friday and Saturday nights, St. Lawrence said, but that decision won't be made until closer to the start of construction.