December 6, 2021

On the road, again

Washed out highway was being fixed from 2019 storm

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

An excavator works Wednesday on the hillside of Song Mountain Road in Preble. The road has been closed indefinitely following a hillside collapse Tuesday and storms in August.

The pitter-patter of rain Wednesday hitting the leaves and ground was a stark contrast to the loud machinery of the Cortland County Highway Department crew working on Song Mountain Road in Preble.

The crew was working on a section of the embankment between Curtain and Otisco Valley roads that has left the road closed to through traffic due to hill damage from Tuesday.

It was the same stretch of the road that county workers had been repairing earlier this summer from damage in a 2019 storm. The area also saw 5 inches of rain and downed trees from a storm in mid-August.

A news release issued Tuesday by Savannah Hempstead, the public information officer for Cortland County, cited an “unstable hillside” as the reason for closing the road until further notice.

Highway Superintendent Charles Sudbrink could not be reached for details.

While the road has become impassable for cars between Curtain and Otisco Valley roads, travel issues have not been a problem for Wes Swayze, who lives directly across from where work is being conducted.

“They’ve been excellent at letting us in and out,” he said.

Erosion prevention materials and a new guardrail were being installed over the summer from a storm around Halloween in 2019 that washed away parts of the road’s embankment, Alan Ricottill, the engineering and maintenance supervisor with the County Highway Department, said in July.

That work was nearing completion in early August.

Swayze said that the work was lost following the hillside collapse Tuesday, although that couldn’t be confirmed.

Being close to Otisco Valley Road, Swayze said he tends to leave toward the west when he needs to get out.

Likewise, Beckie Thomas, who was working at her mother’s house on Curtain Road near the work site, said she hadn’t had access problems as she could just leave going east toward Song Lake Road.

“It’s not had much of an impact,” she said.

While signs announcing the road is closed have been placed at Otisco Valley and Song Lake Roads, the signs do not prevent entry onto the roads or exit from them.