Brattleboro roads likely to get worse before getting better

BRATTLEBORO -- Department of Public Works Director Steve Barrett has put some perspective on the town's deteriorating roads: As bad as they are, he said, they are probably going to get worse.

"The weather does make it look like everything we've been doing is going to fail again," Barrett said. "We'll be out all weekend watching it. We're ready."

It has been an extremely tough winter for Western Avenue, as well as for other roads in Brattleboro and around the state. Extreme freezing and thawing, which does not typically occur throughout the winter, has created wide and deep holes on the town's roads.

Barrett said with the warmer weather approaching, the hot mix plant in Swanzey, N.H., might open soon, giving the town a supply of quality asphalt to attend to Western Avenue and other tough spots around town.

Typically, the plant closes in winter and the town can only use recycled patch material, which is easily disturbed by warming and freezing and heavy traffic.

Barrett said last week crews were using jack hammers to round out the holes and try to create a smoother fit for the patching materials. But with temperatures expected to hit the 40s this weekend, and then more cold weather at night, a lot of that work, he said, will just have to be done all over again.

"As things warm up and there is runoff, the cold nights will freeze all that water and that causes the work to fail," Barrett said. "There's not much we can do about but be ready and we'll be out there."

The really bad holes will be filled, but Barrett said there will probably be plenty of signs and cones out this weekend as well for the holes that the town can not get to.

Interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland agreed.

Looking over the weather forecast, with warm days and cold nights this weekend and then another cold snap next week, Moreland said the highway crews will be keeping a close watch on Western Avenue over the next few days.

"It looks like the weather is going to warm up and that will likely lead to additional potholes on Western Avenue," Moreland said. "We anticipate the situation will get worse."

The town crews have been patching the holes on Western Avenue as quickly as possible, and if it stays cold the patch will remain in the hole and do its job. But as temperatures rise and fall the shape of the holes shifts and patches are easily broken apart by traffic.

"Our crews will be monitoring the situation this weekend and we will respond with additional patch to try to keep the roads as good as possible," Moreland said. "We are asking drivers to remain vigilant and slow down."

Rep. Mollie Burke, D/P-Brattleboro, a member of the House Transportation Committee, said her committee has been hearing from municipalities throughout the state about the pothole situation.

The committee finished its work on the Transportation budget, which she said includes an additional $1.6 million for paving. The extra money is earmarked for damage caused during the winter of 2013 on state roads as well as for Class 1 roads, which municipalities are usually responsible for maintaining.

Burke said the budget still has a long way to go before the rubber hits the road, so to speak. The Appropriations Committee, the full House and Senate, and then the governor, all have to sign off on the funding. But Burke said legislators have been receiving a strong message about the potholes.

"Everybody understands that it's been a challenging winter," Burke said. "VTrans has really been listening and they have bent over backwards to try to find a solution that will hopefully help out."

Brattleboro Water and Highway Superintendent Hannah O'Connell said the department always has staff on call and this weekend she expects the crews to be busy driving around town filling the holes they can, and marking those they can't get to.

And beside, mud season is just around the corner.

"We'll be monitoring it all weekend," O'Connell said. "We'll stay on top of what we can stay on top of. We know what we can get to will only last so long, but we're going to do what we can to keep the roads safe."


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions