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Winter leaves heaving country roads

Welcome to mud season, and drive carefully on any unpaved roads.

The Charlemont Highway Department has closed a section of Mountain Road on account of mud.

Emergency services and the Charlemont Post Office have been notified.

Although the closure does not lock anyone out or in, it may be an inconvenience for those accessing the road from Burrington Road. Warning signs and detour signs are in place and the Highway Department does not expect the road will be closed for long.

“We’ve made arrangements for traffic to go the other way,” said Highway Superintendent Gordon Hathaway. “But the way things are thawing out, nice and gradual, I think it will be open soon.”

Hathaway said this was a tough winter for frost heaves, but the gradual warming up this month is a good thing for any unpaved roads. “We had a really cold winter, and the frost went really deep,” he remarked. “If you get lucky, you have a gradual thaw. We had a couple of mini-mud seasons earlier this winter, and the roads have heaved up.”

Also, Colrain’s New County Road has been closed to traffic for now.

In Heath, “the frost heaves this year were biblical,” says Highway Superintendent Michael Smith. “It was quite a year.”

According to Smith, the combination of extreme cold and the 100-year-old roadbeds have left the roads very rough. But the town hasn’t had to close any of its dirt roads due to “mud season,” he noted. “We’ve worked feverishly to add clean stone to muddy roadways.” Smith said the use of stone (not gravel) displaces some of the water embedded in the roadway. “Pouring gravel into a (mudhole) is like throwing a sponge into a bucket of water,” he said. “But I think we might be turning the corner on mud season.” Smith said he is hoping for a warm rain to take the remainder of the frost out of the roadways, which will firm up the roads again.

In Heath, Route 8A is extremely rutted and has many frost heaves. Town officials hope to secure a Small Town Road Assistance Program (STRAP) grant to repave part of the road, which is a major town artery.

In Ashfield, none of the dirt roads are closed, but reduced weight limits have been posted until the full spring thaw, according to highway worker Alan Taylor.

The Buckland Highway Department reported it has been striving to fill potholes and level frost heaves, but has not had to close roads.

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