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Newly painted yellow lines on Monument Avenue have divided opinons in historic Old Bennington. (Peter Crabtree)
Newly painted yellow lines on Monument Avenue have divided opinons in historic Old Bennington. (Peter Crabtree)
Newly painted yellow lines on Monument Avenue have divided opinons in historic Old Bennington. (Peter Crabtree)

ELIZABETH A. CONKEY

Staff Writer

OLD BENNINGTON -- Tuesday afternoon, a double yellow line was painted down the center of Monument Avenue in Old Bennington.

To most, this action fell to uninterested eyes, but to a handful of residents in Old Bennington -- Monument Avenue specifically -- the "not so mellow" yellow lines are a cause for concern.

Among the Vermont Department of Transportation employees present Tuesday to paint the lines was Project Manager and Resident Engineer Chris Williams. He explained during a phone interview with the Banner Thursday that the lines were painted in order to comply with a federal mandate developed in Montpelier this spring, which enforced that all Class 2 town highways must be painted every two years in order to achieve optimum safety.

According to Williams, Monument Avenue falls under that description, and thus, had to be painted this year.

Catamount Lane resident Polly Van Der Linde said she first noticed the yellow lines Tuesday evening, while on her way to a meeting in North Bennington.

"I was in shock and immediately posted about it on Facebook," she said. "The road looks like a highway now as opposed to a scenic road to a beautiful historic site."

Van Der Linde, who sits on the Village of Old Bennington's Zoning Board, is well versed when it comes to the efforts put in place to preserve the village's historical aspects.

"Nothing can be done now, but I don't want something like this to happen again," she said. "It's just atrocious."

Arnold Ricks, road commissioner for the Village of North Bennington for more than 20 years, shared in Van Der Linde's frustration, but was understanding in the fact that the state workers "were just doing their job."

"I'm very disappointed," said Ricks. "I've requested in the past that lines not be painted in the road but it seems that my request has been overlooked.

I know that the workers were just doing what they were supposed to do, though." He went on to explain that his concern also lies in the fact that the lines may prove to be a distraction to tourists unfamiliar with the area.

"For traffic coming from Route 9 from the West, the lines might be confusing," Ricks said. "Tourists might mistake the double yellow lines to be part of the highway." Colleen Dewey of 22 Monument Ave. said she first noticed the glaring yellow paint Wednesday morning when she woke up.

"I looked out my window and couldn't help but notice the lines. The color is really bright," she said.

Dewey and her husband Edward have lived in their home for 18 years.

Edward Dewey agreed with his wife, noting that the lines are "unappealing." "They stand out," he said. "That's for sure." However, the couple explained that if the lines were in fact painted to enforce safety on the road, that they understand completely.

"With the amount of traffic up here, hopefully the lines will be helpful," Edward Dewey said.

Van Der Linde said that her ill feelings towards the lines would remain constant, regardless of the fact that they may enforce safety.

"It they were painted for safety reasons, the double yellow lines, at least in my opinion, make me think, ‘Oh, I can go fast!'" she noted. "I can understand where the road needed to be painted in Old Bennington on Route 9, but to go up Monument Avenue? Next thing you know, we're going to have a toll booth up there!"

For some Monument Avenue residents, however, the lines were not a cause for contention.

"They don't go with the feel of Old Bennington," said Scott Shea of 14 Monument Ave., "But that really doesn't bother me. I have two little kids," he continued. "There is lots of traffic on this road. Hopefully the lines help to control it." Steve Degenstein and his partner Harvey Odze spend most of their time in Florida, but own a second home at 38 Monument Avenue.

The couple, like the Dewey's, noticed the lines Wednesday, but said that the roadwork didn't interest them in the least.

"They really don't bother me," Odze said of the lines. "I saw them and just thought to myself, ‘Oh, they painted yellow lines.' Not a big deal."

Ricks said he has plans to speak with state highway personnel in the near future so that he may voice his concerns. 

"I don't know what could be done now," he said. "We'll survive, but it's certainly unfortunate."

According to Williams, the yellow lines on Monument Avenue will be repainted every year.

Contact Elizabeth A. Conkey at econkey@benningtonbanner.com or follow on twitter @bethconkey.