HIGHLAND MILLS-Ridge Road, located just west of Route 32 in the town of Woodbury, is the way to get home for the residents of the more than 400 homes in the area. On an average day, Woodbury police estimate, 8,300 cars, trucks and buses use it to get from county routes 105 and 44. In early January, a section of a wall of this roadway showed signs of deterioration. The wall, which was built circa 1920, runs adjacent to the Woodbury Creek. The wear and tear continued through the spring, so much so Highway Superintendent Peter Stabile said he feared the poor conditions could prompt an accident. So the town closed the road on April 22. "I did it in the interest of safety," Stabile said last week. Closing the road inconvenienced residents, merchants and school children. It also added 15 to 20 minutes in response time for emergency vehicles, according to Stabile. But to make matters worse, the town ran into immediate problems with the state Department of Environmental Conservation as well as other agencies because the stream adjacent to the road was environmentally protected. That meant no construction could be done until DEC approval was obtained. The town also applied for a mitigation grant to help alleviate some or most of the lost structure. But this, too, was rejected because such money is only given when a community can prove that this was an "emergency" situation and a "threat to life." Eventually, the necessary approvals were obtained, repairs made and the town reopened the road on Sept. 17. In the interim, state Sen. William Jr. Larkin intervened on the town's behalf. He obtained $100,000 in state funding to contribute to the project's $421,000 cost. The mitigation grant also is being reconsidered through his efforts, town officials and Stabile said. This money, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, would pay 75 percent of a project's cost.