Towns complain of 'perilous' conditions
On May 1, the Windham Select Board wrote to Gov. Phil Scott to emphasize the deteriorating condition of Route 11 between Londonderry and Chester, and demand more expedient action.
"It will be extremely difficult to live with the condition of Rt. 11, as it is now, compounded by how it will deteriorate over the next 2 years, if not properly repaired," read the letter.
Select Board members hope that this letter, alongside pleas from the Select Board in Andover, will convey the severity of this issue to the Vermont Department of Transportation, which has scheduled repairs to Route 11 for 2019 as part of a $75 million repaving effort across the state.
"Many people travel this route from Windham on a daily or near-daily basis," the letter continued. "The trip is perilous as well as nerve-wracking, and we can only begin to imagine the damages we are doing to our vehicles."
The condition of the heavily traveled road has become an issue of great importance for the communities surrounding Route 11, who are frustrated by the state's inaction despite continued complaints.
"We had been approached by a number of residents regarding the condition of Route 11," said Maureen Bell, a member of the Windham Select Board "We're all concerned about it, and we wanted to make sure it's at the forefront of Governor Scott's mind."
In sending this letter, the Select Board hopes to support and amplify the requests made by surrounding communities.
"There's no question that it needs work," said Windham Select Board member Kord Scott. "We're trying to support the requests that have been made by other towns."
Members of the Andover Select Board first wrote to Governor Scott on March 13 to express their frustration that the repaving of Route 11, which VTrans has promised for the last two years, has now been rescheduled for 2019.
"We have been repeatedly misled into believing the problem would be corrected and patiently waited for the State of Vermont to deliver on its promise, which it never has," read the letter from the Andover Select Board.
In this letter, representatives from Andover emphasized Route 11's status as a major roadway from New York to New Hampshire, heavily trafficked by passenger vehicles, commercial trucks, and oil tankers alike. The poor conditions of the road pose a safety hazard, argued the Select Board, citing a 2014 accident in which an oil tanker tipped over on Route 11 spilling 2,500 gallons of gasoline.
Governor Scott responded on April 2, confirming that both he and VTrans had heard complaints from locals loud and clear.
"I've been told the schedule for this project has been changed in recent years due to budget constraints," responded Scott. "I want to apologize, because I can imagine how frustrating that must be."
Nevertheless, Scott acknowledged that due to the aforementioned budgetary constraints the offending sections of the roadway would not be repaved immediately. In his response the Governor admitted that 14 percent of Vermont's roadways are rated as "very poor," sections of Route 11 included, totaling almost 350 miles of state highway in Vermont requiring repair.
"While I wish we had the resources to rehabilitate all the poor roads in Vermont, that unfortunately is not a reality," said Scott. VTrans officials say that while they are limited by budgetary constraints until the 2019 repaving project, they hope to provide temporary repairs prior to that effort, beginning this summer.
"We have heard the concerns of the communities, and the letter [from Governor Scott] certainly spelled out the timeline we have for this major project," said Kevin Marshia, director and chief engineer for VTrans. "In response to the concerns of these communities, we're working to respond this summer to treat the very worst sections of Route 11."
The Andover Select Board found Scott's response to be insufficient, and wrote again to the governor on April 13th.
"There are sections varying from 100 feet to 1,000 feet that cannot be patched or temporarily repaired. Additionally, winter clearance of snow cannot be adequately done due to the extremely uneven surface," read the letter. "Therefore, additional salt must be applied, causing more damage to the road surface and increasing the salt runoff into the nearby Williams River."
The Select Board urged the governor to come to the area himself and witness the dangerous conditions on Route 11 firsthand.
"After viewing the condition of the road, we believe you would agree that VTrans needs to adjust priorities so that Route 11 can be permanently repaved this year so that the public will no longer be put at risk of injury or death," replied the Andover Select Board.
This sentiment was echoed in the Windham Select Board's letter as well.
"As our colleagues in Andover have already done, we, too, invite you to look at the road for yourself," read the May 1 letter. "Perhaps that will be the impetus this project needs."
Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.
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