Temporary road closure in Sunderland due to railway project

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SUNDERLAND — A section of Sunderland Hill Road., one of the main throughways for the town of Sunderland, will be closed to through traffic for nine days starting on Sunday, Sept. 10 for railroad maintenance.

Only local traffic will be permitted on the stretch of road between Borough Road and Hill Farm Road, approximately 3.9 miles from the intersection of Route 7A and River Road in Manchester. The nine day effort is the continuation of a bridge replacement project undertaken by the contracting company S & R, based out of Lowell, Mass.

The S & R Corporation has deemed it necessary to close the road in order to replace Rail Bridge 19 over the Battenkill River, and Rail Bridge 25 over Mill Brook, both of which will require the effective movement of heavy machinery.

"There's two rail bridges located along that stretch, and both need to be completely replaced," said Natalie Boyle, a subcontracted project outreach coordinator for the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans.) "In order to do that we need big machinery like cranes and excavators, and it's actually going to take less time and be safer for the traveling public to close the road."

The closure was agreed upon by VTrans, Vermont Rail Systems, and the Sunderland Select Board in the interest of public safety.

"They came to a selectboard meeting and asked if they could close the road to get this work done," said Sunderland Selectboard Chair Mark Hyde. "They've been working on this project for a couple of months now for both of the bridges, and at this point they'll have all of the infrastructure in place to pull out the bridge that is there now and put the new bridge in."

Construction crews will be permitted to work 24 hours a day to complete the project within the approved time period, which VTrans expects to be more efficient due to the full closure of that section of the road.

"Originally there was not a closure with this project, but the contractors asked the town and VTrans to close down the road for a few days to do it more safely and quickly," said Boyle. "Everyone agreed that it would be safer, with less disruption to commerce and travel, to get both rail bridges up and running sooner rather than later."

While in the past such projects would rely on the installment of temporary bridges, that can be a complex and inefficient process according to VTrans.

"VTrans is finding that for bridge replacements it's a lot more cost effective and a lot less destructive if we can close roads for shorter periods of time," said Boyle. "That way, the contractor has free and clear access rather than the disruption of installing a temporary bridge."

While the closed road is in a residential area, local traffic will be permitted throughout the construction process.

"It's just that one little stretch, and of course the folks that live within the closure will be able to get to and from their homes," said Boyle. "We just don't want any through traffic."

"There are a number of houses in the area. The railroad is working with homeowners, but there have been some noise issues with the work that they're doing," said Hyde. "The railroad company is trying to do the work during the day whenever possible."

While Sunderland Hill Rd., which will close at 12 a.m. on Sept. 10 and re-open at 12 a.m. on Sept. 19, does see a fair amount of traffic according to Hyde, Route 7A can provide an efficient detour for travelers.

"They said that this is the shortest amount of time that they can do the work in," said Hyde. "For Sunderland this is unusual; we don't normally close roads."

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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