NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- The northern leg of Route 279, originally slated to open this month, will be delayed until some time next month after the lead contractor diverted resources to help the state recover from Tropical Storm Irene.
Northern leg delayed
Project Manager James Harris said additional work identified in May to shore up shoulders of the new roadway connecting Route 9 on the eastern edge of Bennington to the systems interchange set the project back about two weeks. But the main contractor, J.A. McDonald, recently sought a time extension on work because of its efforts to help clear rivers and repair roads following Tropical Storm Irene last August.
"That's part of it, but more to the issue is that the contractor had come back to the agency and asked for an extension based on the fact that they diverted their assets for the project to the damage caused by Irene last August," Harris said. "That has caused them to get behind what their original completion date was."
"They provided information to (the agency) that demonstrates that they did do that and there's conversations ongoing between the construction section and the contractor," Harris added.
The northern leg is the second of the three-legged road system that will allow traffic to bypass downtown Bennington. The western leg opened in 2004. Harris said the AOT officials are awaiting word from the contractor before announcing when the road will open.
"I don't have an exact date. I know that the construction people are talking to the contractor about that," Harris said. "At this point, it's some time in August. I don't have a date because they haven't given us a final date."
Harris said state officials will not open the road until the contractor has completed work that requires crews to close lanes.
"What we want to make sure is that when we have a date specific all the work is going to be completed and when we open it up to the public we are not going to have lane closures and flaggers out there directing traffic around work out there," he said.
The agency will hold an official opening ceremony when the road is opened to the public, Harris said.