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Council discusses report on Featherbed Lane repairs

March 19, 2012


NORTH KINGSTOWN – During the spring 2010 flood, North Kingstown sustained heavy roadway damage and thousands of homes in the area suffered flooded basements.
Even though it’s been two years since that event, many residents are still feeling the effects.
None more so than the residents of Featherbed Lane, which is located on the crest of dam that gave out and is still closed to traffic.
At Monday’s North Kingstown Town Council meeting, the council discussed an Evaluation and Conceptual Repair report by the Providence-based enginnering firm GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc. that showed the issues still remaining in the area.
Located over the Annaquatucket River, Featherbed Lane is accessible by Annaquatucket and Hamilton Allenton Roads, the latter of which is still closed. A dead-end street, Woodward Road, is off of Featherbed Lane. It’s a small-sized dam and has a low-hazard rating, which means if failed there wouldn’t be an immediate loss of life or significant economic impacts.
In addition to the dam failure, other significant damage happened to the dam’s culvert as well as the development of numerous sinkholes under and alongside the crest of the dam.
Included in the report by GZA are three repair alternatives and proposed costs.
One option recommends a partial breach of the dam which would lower the level of the pond and reduces its area. This would carry the least amount of future maintenance as the river channel is re-established. According to Public Works Director Phil Bergeron, this option is endorsed by Save the Bay and the state because it would eliminate the need for the fish ladder that currently exists at the location.
The other two options are controlled overtopping (letting water flow over the dam in a controlled manner) and enlarging and lowering spillway. All options can be developed to include a pedestrian bridge instead of restoring traffic.
Bergeron warned the town council in a Feb. 23 memo that the costs associated with this project would be “significant” and expected to exceed $500,000. If traffic is resumed, the reconstructing of the road is estimated to add $110,000 to the final cost.
“GZA is recommending the council consider option one as it would permanently close the road, but leave the area open to pedestrian traffic,” Bergeron said. “It would also afford the greatest protection against flood waters, without changing the elevation or area of the pond.”
Following the closure of Featherbed Lane, Bergeron began receiving calls from neighbors and, he said, about half of those asked preferred the road remain closed while others didn’t care or wanted to see the road reopened.
Bergeron is hoping to get the design work started so construction can begin in the late summer or early fall.
Featherbed Lane resident Steve Bogue, whose house is next to the dam, has a few concerns with the project. He explained that when the water level gets low, a foul smell develops and because the river runs along Annaquatucket Road, he believes there’s going to be an impact on those residents.
Bogue’s residence was built in 1600 and was the home of Steven Northrup who was the sheriff of Providence during that time period.
“To discard the historical significance of that road is a poor decision,” he said. “That road means a lot to the state. Northrup was one of the founding fathers of Rhode Island. Additionally, Featherbed is heavily used by the community, of course when it was open. Closing it permanently would be a disservice to the town.”
Like Bogue, Featherbed resident Diane Gerzevitz wants to see the road opened.
“In this day in age with gas prices, I have to go an extra mile to get home, rather than the usual way,” Gerzevits said. “I’m also discouraged with the way the town has left that area in a state you all should be ashamed of. There are toilets in the woods, kids that are truant and sexual activity going on. If you just have a pedestrian walkway the exact same thing will continue.”
Gerzevitz’s husband, Mike, has a different opinion. He explained that he loves living in the beautiful country-style neighborhood but a disturbing part has been the traffic from the high school. Gerzevitz described a ridge of rock that goes across a section of the road where students drive between 50 and 60 mph to get airborne. Within the last five years there’s been three major accidents involving young teens. One took out a utility pole and the Jaws of Life had to be used; another saw a vehicle roll over into the river trapping the driver who kicked out a window to escape and could have drowned; and the third saw a vehicle jump the hill and crash through a stone wall after losing control.
“It’s been a relief to me that the road has been closed. It would give me such anxiety to see the kids ripping down the road,” added Mike. “I understand the convenience factor of having the road open, but I just ask, if that’s what you decide, address the safety issues.”
The council unanimously approved delaying the vote on scope of work until its March 26 meeting.

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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