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Years and miles of work remain on the road to recovery

by Alexandra Nicolas, Eagle Tribune

After every disaster, no matter the scale, come the questions: When have we recovered? When is the work done?

In the year since Sept. 13, 2018, when overpressurized Columbia Gas lines caused hundreds of fires and an explosion that killed a young man, much of the physical damage in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover has been repaired.

Police officer Ivan Soto’s burned-out home at 60 Jefferson St. in Lawrence has been rebuilt, taller, but painted nearly the same blue as the original.

Most of the irrevocably damaged houses have been torn down.

The demolished remains at 35 Chickering St., where 18-year-old Leonel Rondon died in the driveway, sat for nearly a year. But now that — toppled bricks, shredded siding and heaps of splintered furniture — has all been hauled away, too.

A total of 18,500 boilers, stoves and water heaters have been replaced.

After two recreational areas served as a temporary trailer park for displaced people, the $2.8 million restoration of Lawrence's Sullivan Park and the South Common is all but done. Passing time is doing the last of the work on the baseball fields — they have to wait for grass to grow.

When Columbia Gas came in to repair the damaged gas lines, they carved trenches into 65 miles of road in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

Even the way the men and women charged with repairing the damage talk about this work sounds surgical. “Reconstruction,” they call it, same as the work you get done after an injury to make you whole again. And that work isn’t quick.

Officials in the three communities announced in May that they had settled with Columbia Gas for $80 million. That money covers municipal claims and expenses like Lawrence’s park restoration and Andover’s Senior Center renovations, but the largest chunk — $57.1 million — is for road restoration.

Impacted road maps: Lawrence | North Andover | Andover

But roads with seams, like those created by filled trenches, can also be damaged by time, winter weather and get wrenched by snow plows. With a four-year timeline, some of those trenches will be expanding and contracting for a while.


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