BENNINGTON — The state is building designated pull-off areas where tractor-trailer drivers can chain their tires during winter before travelling Route 9 between Bennington and Woodford.
The state highway, with its long, steep grades has been the scene of many winter incidents over the years. Large vehicles like tractor-trailers have gotten stuck on the hills or crash, leading to injuries and snarled traffic.
State officials recognized the need to address those issues, according to Robert Faley, district administrator for the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans). "Route 9 is the primary east-west truck route through southern Vermont and has a relatively high volume of truck traffic compared to other state highways," he said this week.
Faley said many drivers whose trucks get stuck are not familiar with the area, while other drivers aren't prepared for road conditions.
The chain-up area in Bennington is being built near Barney Road, on town-owned land that the Select Board voted to sell to the state. In Wilmington, the area will be adjacent to the marina at the Harriman Reservoir.
The Bennington pull-off will have space for drivers to put on or take off tire chains, as well as six parking spaces for trucks if they need to wait out a storm. The Bennington Welcome Center off Route 279 has served as a chain-up area since VTrans launched the initiative less than two years ago. Faley said it could still serve as a chain-up area if more space is needed.
Legislation passed in 2009 allowed a transportation committee to dictate where trucks must use chains during winter weather, but required the state to provide space for drivers to do so. Officials said chain-up areas at the Welcome Center and near the marina were temporary when the state announced them in December 2014.
The 5.59-acre parcel near Barney Road in Bennington was previously the site of a proposed solar array, but changes to state solar setback laws made that project unfeasible.
"There are limited opportunities to capture all the vehicles travelling over Route 9 with a single site on each side of the mountain," Faley said. "Route 9 shares a steep valley with the Roaring Branch so the town parcel was an ideal location."
The state approached the town in the spring with an offer to purchase the property for $40,000. The Select Board voted in August to accept the offer, on the condition that the state provide landscaping and parking for access to the Roaring Branch of the Walloomsac. In the same motion, members directed the sale proceeds be placed in a reserve fund to offset match requirements for future grant applications, according to minutes of the Aug. 8 meeting.
Crews are putting finishing touches on the Bennington site, as well as the Wilmington site, Faley said.
"Fresh asphalt is being finalized this week, new signage has been ordered and these sites will be open for service this winter," Faley said. "We will need to do additional work in the spring to address landscaping and other minor work."
Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.