Skip to main content

I-88 Collapse One Year Later

To read our entire coverage of the I-88 collapse, use this link.

Slightly after daybreak on the rainy morning of June 28, 2006, from opposite directions David Swingle and Patrick O'Connell headed towards mile 37 on Interstate 88 not knowing that their paths would cross in the most unfortunate of situations. For two days, heavy and consistent rains had fallen across much of Upstate New York with some locations receiving over a foot. The rains had already caused heavy flooding in many towns that bordered the Delaware River. Throughout the area, waters were rising on the Delaware and surrounding streams that would bring record crests in places like Binghamton, Unadilla, Walton, and Oneonta.

The heavy rains had saturated the ground and runoff along with the persistent rain had swollen numerous streams, rivers and creeks in the area, including Carrs Creek that feeds into the Delaware near Unadilla. Carrs Creek crosses under Interstate 88 just south of the Exit 10 interchange.

Swingle and O'Connell would approach Carrs Creek around 6 am that morning. They never made it across. Sometime around 6 am, the swollen creek had overwhelmed the culvert and surrounding area causing the structure to fail and all four lanes of the highway to collapse into creek.

The first call reporting the collapse came in at 6:02. By then, it is believed that Swingle had already driven into the chasm. The impact of the cab into the ground killed him instantly. Motorists, mainly other truck drivers, saw O'Connells truck -- headed westbound -- and tried to alert him. It was too late, he also crashed into the floodwaters. He had been ejected from his cab and was lying unconscious on the ground when a rescue squad began a rescue attempt at around 6:20. Unfortunately, more of the highway collapsed and O'Connell was soon washed away with the rapids. His body would be found in a nearby field eleven days later.

As the day went on, more of the land surrounding the highway collapsed. The gorge would even swallow the Exit 10 guide sign. The chasm would be nearly 150 feet at its widest point and nearly 60 feet deep. For most of the summer, traffic on Interstate 88 would be detoured onto two lane NY Route 7 between Sidney and Unadilla.

It was later learned that the 33 year old culvert had in a 2004 inspection received a 5 out of a possible 7 rating, considered good. However, numerous structural concerns involving erosion and corrosion were noted. Ironically, a few weeks prior to the collapse, the State had awarded a contract that included the rehabilitation of the culvert which would include a new concrete floor.

After the collapse, an emergency contract to replace the culvert was let. Crews assigned to the project worked nearly non-stop building the culvert on site. Around Labor Day, traffic was returned to Interstate 88 on the Westbound lanes. Traffic was limited to one lane in each direction. Later that fall, the entire roadway was reopened.

However, the completion of a new culvert did not end the problems for I-88 at Carrs Creek. Earlier this year, NYSDOT had to let a contract to replace 8500 cubic yards of polystyrene fill that was used in the construction of the new structure. The fill was structurally failing as the new roadway began to sag. The fill is to be replaced by "expanded shale" at a cost of $1.1 million. Questions have been razed on why the polystyrene fill was used in the first place in addition to environmental concerns as to using what is basically Styrofoam as fill around a body of water. The project is to end in July.

The tragedy of June 29, 2006 gripped numerous communities throughout Upstate New York. Flooding shut off towns from the outside world, numerous homes were gutted and would need to be rebuilt from scratch, and a number of other rural roads would have to be rebuilt from washouts or landslides.

But most importantly, two families lost loved ones that they never had the chance to say goodbye to.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

California State Route 190; a Trans-Sierra Highway that could have been

This past week I decided to take a small scale road trip on California State Route 190 from CA 99 east to the unbuilt section over the Sierra Nevada Range.  While I was in for what turned out to be a fun drive following the course of the Tule River watershed what I found researching the back story of CA 190 was one of the most complex and unusual stories of any California State Highway.  Given that I had a ton of older photos of the eastern segment of CA 190 in the Mojave Desert of Inyo County I thought it was time to put something together for the entire route. The simplified story of CA 190 is that it is a 231 mile state highway that has a 43 mile unbuilt gap in the Sierra Nevada Range.  CA 190 is an east/west State Highway running from CA 99 in Tulare County at Tipton east to CA 127 located in Death Valley Junction near the Nevada State Line in rural Inyo County.  The routing CA 190 was adopted into the State Highway system as Legislative Route 127 which was adopted in 1933 acc

Old US Route 40 on Donner Pass Road

While completing California State Route 89 between Lassen Volcanic National Park and US Route I took a detour in Truckee up the infamous Donner Pass Road. Generally I don't dispense with the history of a roadway before the route photos but the history of Donner Pass is steeped within California lore and western migration.  The first recorded Wagon Crossing of Donner Pass was back in 1844.  The infamous Donner Party saga occurred in the winter of 1846-47 in which only 48 of the 87 party members survived.  Although the Donner Party incident is largely attributed to poor planning and ill conceived Hastings Cutoff it largely led to the infamous reputation of Donner Pass. The first true road over the Sierra Nevada Range via the Donner Pass was known as the Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Road.  The Dutch Flat & Donner Lake Wagon Road was completed by 1864 to assist with construction of the Central Pacific build the First Trans-Continental Railroad over Donner Pass.  The websit

California State Route 159 (former California State Route 11 and US Route 66)

California State Route 159 was a post 1964-Renumbering State Route which was designated over former segments of California State Route 11 and US Route 66.  As originally defined California State Route 159 began at Interstate 5/US Route 99 at the Golden State Freeway in Los Angeles.  California State Route 159 followed Figueroa Street, Colorado Boulevard and Linda Vista Avenue to the planned Foothill Freeway.  California State Route 159 was truncated during 1965 to existing solely on Linda Vista Avenue where it remained until being relinquished during 1989.  California State Route 159 was formally deleted from the State Highway System during 1992.   The history of California State Route 159 Prior to 1933 the Division of Highways was not actively involved in maintaining urban highways outside of occasional cooperative projects.  The responsibility for signage of US Routes in cities was thusly given to the Automobile Club of Southern California in the Southern California region.  This bei