Long-delayed Popple Dungeon work begins

By Shawn Cunningham
©2015 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Popple Dungeon residents are holding their breaths and crossing their fingers as work gets underway on the long delayed project to reroute about 950 feet of crumbling paved roadway and improve the drainage under it to stabilize and preserve the road.

This section of roadway stands above the South Branch of the Williams River.

Chester Highway Superintendent Graham Kennedy (center) works to lay out new Popple Dungeon Road section.

Chester Highway Superintendent Graham Kennedy, center, works to lay out new Popple Dungeon Road section. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

Last week Highway Superintendent Graham Kennedy was in the Dungeon laying out the center line of the re-routed road with a representative of Dufresne Group engineering. Funded by a FEMA Mitigation grant for $167,317 with a $55,772  in-kind match of labor by the Town of Chester road crew, the project has had several incarnations and just about as many fits and starts.

While there was a $52,509 Popple Dungeon Fund in Chester’s 2006 and 2007 annual reports (apparently carried over from the “construction” fund from 2005) a new Popple Dungeon fund was created by a voted article in 2008 and the old fund disappeared from the financial statements.

The new fund received $30,000 each year from the General Fund until it reached the target of $90,000 in 2010. No work was undertaken in 2011 and by March of 2012, Article Four on the Town Meeting agenda proposed to transfer the Popple Dungeon Fund monies to be part of a match for a FEMA grant to pave Flamstead Road.

FEMA funding for Popple Dungeon Road was pending and the 2012 annual report predicted that the work would be done in 2013, but that did not come to pass. In the 2013 annual report, Town Manager David Pisha touted the paving of Flamstead with no mention of Popple Dungeon.

In 2014, with FEMA grant funds in hand, the town prepared to do the work, but by then, the Army Corps of Engineers had identified portions of the area as wetlands and the project came to a halt. The town and Dufresne Group engineer Naomi Johnson negotiated with the state and federal authorities to get the project back on track without fines, but by the time an agreement was reached it was too late to start work on the 75-day project.

Now Kennedy’s crew is up against a November deadline, after which the funds for the project are no longer available. While the project easily fits into the time frame, occurrences like last year’s July 28 flood could tighten the schedule. Kennedy says that because the work is not on the existing road, traffic will not be affected until the last portion of the project.

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  1. jo richardson says:

    The worst area on Popple Dungeon is being fixed and those of us who live up here can’t wait, it’s been a long time coming.
    As grateful as we all are about this one section of the road being repaired, I am hoping that the rest of the road gets attention, as well…repaved from the beginning, starting off Rte.35 up to where they are repairing now. This whole first section of Popple Dungeon is full of cracks, pot holes, missing tar causing deep gullies up the middle of the road, just general disrepair.
    We Dungeonites would be forever grateful and, again, thank you road crew for all your hard work through all seasons!

  2. Gail Gibbons says:

    We also welcome the work being done to make Popple Dungeon Road safe. We have noticed an increase in vehicular traffic, due to the Rt. 11 bridge closing. To be expected, I guess. What we didn’t expect is the speed of these vehicles when they pass our home. We’re not concerned with our safety. We are concerned with the safety of hikers and bikers who use this road, every day. Hopefully, the bridge will be reopened, and Popple Dungeon will be repaired, without incident.

  3. Richard Pease-Grant says:

    Regarding the Popple Dungeon project: It would be helpful for all to understand that this is much more than potholes. The whole road has to be moved sideways because it has been “sluffing”(sliding) down hill for years. This is not a minefield of potholes or a favorite project. This effort is trying to save a section of the road about a quarter of a mile long, before it disappears down the hill into the river taking someone with it. It has been in design engineering for a number of years.

  4. Elise says:

    Hello! I live on Popple Dungeon Road – fondly known as ‘Pothole’ Dungeon Road, and drive at least twice a day on its twists, bumps, heaves, holes and sags toward the river. I welcome the work to restore the paved section to something resembling a road again.

    We are also thrilled to have the unpaved section graded properly again. Thanks!

  5. arlene says:

    All this money? For what? My road is a minefield and I keep getting putting off … told no money? I wonder who lives on Popple Dungeon Road? Same with Church Street, that road is FINE … did not need repaving.