Repairs to washed-away Montgomery Co. road to require shutdown

A portion of Belfast Road destroyed by Monday’s flash floods has been temporarily fixed, but will need to be closed for a few days for permanent repairs, starting Thursday.

After Monday’s torrential rains, road and highway crews are tackling a mammoth task in repairing, and in some cases replacing, roadways that were damaged or washed away.

Tuesday morning, residents in the Woodrock neighborhood of Potomac — about 40 homes, accessible only from Belfast Road — were, with the help of flaggers, able to cross a hole 20 feet wide by 60 feet deep created when an older corrugated metal pipe was overwhelmed.

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation said Tuesday afternoon in a news release that the road would be closed starting Thursday at 10 a.m. for “approximately 48 hours.”

Richard Dorsey, the chief of highway services for Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation, said the hole was filled with gravel, and steel plates were placed on top, to provide access to the homes on Laurel Leaf Drive, Laurel Leaf Place and Goldwood Court. They became inaccessible by road when the portion of Belfast Road was damaged.

“Starting Thursday, we’re going to be shutting the road down and starting the construction of installing a 60-inch concrete storm drain culvert,” Dorsey told WTOP. “We’re not going to use metal; we’re going to use something with a longer lifespan.”

While the new concrete culvert will be sturdier than its metal predecessor, preparation after the road was washed away will take several days.

“It’s going to be some extensive excavation,” Dorsey said. “We’re going to work around the clock to repair this infrastructure and restore access to the community.”

With only one route in and out of the neighborhood, county officials will offer a 24-hour-a-day shuttle service. Homeowners will be able to walk to a staging area, to catch a shuttle bus to their cars, which should be parked in the lot across the street from Old Angler’s Inn, on MacArthur Boulevard, Potomac Village Shopping Center, or the Bethesda Metro.

Tuesday, tree crews were removing trees damaged by the storms and trees that would obstruct the permanent construction project.

“It’ll take that amount of time to reopen the road,” said Dorsey. “The project will take a week or so longer because there are some other outside-of-the-road limits construction that needs to take place. Our primary goal is to get the road open as soon as possible.”

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein reported from Potomac, Maryland.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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