CHARLEMONT -- Route 2 reopened early Thursday morning, capping off a round-the-clock, $23 million dollar effort from the state Department of Transportation and several contractors to meet a finish date many thought farfetched only three months ago.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Thursday morning near the Mohawk State Forest Campground alongside the Cold River, a spot that was under water three and a half months ago. A six-mile section of the Mohawk Trail had been impassable since Tropical Storm Irene left gaping holes and washouts along the crucial east-west connector at the end of August.
"This is what the government does best," MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard Davey said to the gathering of workers, media and transportation officials. "A lot of things can be controlled -- but not Mother Nature, and she dealt a blow to this roadway during the storm. ... We're proud to say the design was finished in record time."
North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright, who worked with MassDOT throughout the project, praised MassDOT and the workers and contractors who contributed to the project.
"The Department of Transportation has shown a commitment to Western Mass and particularly this highway," Alcombright said. "It's almost surreal to see Route 2 open, thanks to the people in the yellow coats and white hats for repairing this lifeline to the eastern part of the state."
State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, took a personal angle in her address.
"I am a Route 2 driver," said Cariddi. "I take this road nearly every day, and now my travel route is back to normal. I really appreciate it, and I'm sure it's the same for hundreds."
According to Davey, the project was unmatched in terms of speed. The bidding process, which normally takes four months, was completed in just nine days. He said MassDOT was committed to providing financial support to rebuild roads affected by the devastation.
"For smaller towns in the area, the money really matters," said Davey. "Fortunately, our budget is big enough so that we can afford to wait for reimbursement from the government through supplemental funds."
State Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, a vocal supporter of the project, was unable to attend the event, but expressed his gratitude.
"I want to thank the Patrick Administration, Secretary Davey and all the workers who expedited this crucial project. A safe, functioning Route 2 is critical to the Northern Berkshires. Thanks to the their teamwork, we were without that lifeline for as little time as possible."
Peter Niles, District Highway Director, said the road has been improved, with new retaining walls, a fuller shoulder and an improved grade.
The remaining work on Route 2, the bulk of which is a bolstering of the flood-control walls, will be completed in the spring.
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