Road work to impact driving around Andover, Londonderry, Weston this summer

By Christopher Biddle
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Residents of and visitors to Andover, Londonderry and Weston may find it slow going on the roads this summer in part, ironically, because of the mild winter that just ended.  The Vermont Department of Transportation and local municipalities may be rolling out a larger than usual number of road projects with money saved on snow removal, salting and sanding.  And these projects will lead to road closures on the Andover/Weston Road in Andover, Route 100 in Weston and possibly Route 11 in Windham and Andover.

Bridge 98 in Weston to be replaced

Bridge 98 in Weston is scheduled to be replaced this summer. Photos by Christopher Biddle unless other wise noted.

Bridge 98 in Weston is scheduled to be replaced this summer. Photos by Christopher Biddle unless otherwise noted.

Route 100 will be closed for up to 28 days starting June 3 to replace Bridge 98, which spans the West River 1.1 miles south of the intersection with Route 155 in Weston. Built in 1959, the bridge is too short, too narrow, and has railings that are too short. It’s also showing signs of “scour” or damage caused by river currents. The new bridge will be 29 feet longer and 4.5 feet wider, and will include 5-foot-wide shoulders and railings that extend beyond the bridge.

The official Vtrans detour will send traffic around the closing via Ludlow, Chester and Londonderry on Routes 103, 11 and 100.  Local traffic can take Old County Road, which runs parallel to 100 by way of Greendale and Old Priory roads. The Agency of Transportation will not detour traffic on state roads onto local  roads.

Replacement of the bridge is estimated to close Route 100 for about a month

Replacement of the bridge is estimated to close Route 100 for as long as 28 days month

At its March 8 meeting, the Weston Select Board discussed its options for signage on the detour, a question brought to them by Road Foreman Almon Crandall. Board Chair Dennis Benson said, “As far as detour signs, the locals know where to go. If we put them up, we’re asking for more traffic.”

Board Member Ann Fuji’i said that she’s concerned for businesses in town that depend on tourist traffic, highlighting the June 18 “Birthday Bash” event to be put on by the Weston Playhouse and the Vermont Country Store, which are celebrating their 80th and 70th anniversaries respectively.

New culvert in Andover

Ameden Construction will replace the culvert put in after the July 28, 2014 flood that washed out Simmonds Road. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

Ameden Construction will replace the smaller culvert put in after the July 28, 2014 flood that washed out Simmonds Road. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

At its March 28 meeting, the Andover Select Board accepted bids by Ameden Construction of Jamaica for the replacement of three culverts in that town.

The projects include culverts on Plumb Road, Simmonds Road and on the Andover/Weston Road at Simmonds. The third and most complex of the jobs is expected to take several weeks and close the Andover/Weston Road for approximately two weeks this summer.

Board member Barry Williams said that there will be 10 days’ notice before the closing. Wes Ameden of Ameden Construction told the board that the hardest part of scheduling is coordinating the day that a crane is onsite to place the culvert and electricity to the area must be shut down. “You schedule five days ahead and, if it rains, the power company won’t do it,” said Ameden.

Paving on Route 155 and Route 11 – maybe yes, maybe no…

VTrans’ Mark Pickering told members of the Weston Select Board at a March 18 meeting that both the 10.6 mile span of Route 155 and  a 3.9 stretch of Route 11 between Horsenail Hill Road east to the Chester town line will be repaved this summer.

In a March 25 Facebook post, Londonderry Select Board member Paul Gordon wrote, “Just finishing a meeting with District 2 VTrans. Great news, both Rt 11. . . and Rt 155 WILL be paved this summer.” Gordon told The Telegraph that he’d gotten word from Pickering as well, who is the project manager for District Two

According to a VTrans road conditions map, sections of both roadways are deemed either poor or very poor. Route 155 runs between Weston and Mount Holly. The two towns fall under different districts, and Robert Faley, the VTrans administrator for District One — Mount Holly, told The Chester Telegraph that the current budget of just $3.5 million will allow for only the first five projects on a list of 13 statewide. Route 155 is No. 10  on that list and Route 11 is No. 11. Getting to those projects would require a fully funded budget of $9.5 million, according to Faley.

“This winter has been pretty mild and we do have revenue that was basically budgeted for winter maintenance and now we have possibly a little bit extra to play around with,” said Faley. “But also, I think in part because winter was so mild, the tax revenues aren’t what we were expecting either.”

Faley said that he’s waiting to hear back from Montpelier on an approved budget before committing to Route 155. In the meantime, he will do the same prep work already done for Route 140, which connects with 155 in Mount Holly and is No. 1 on the VTrans list.

“Those are the two worst roads in our opinion,” said Faley. “So it’s nice to see that they’re at least on the list. Mike Hedges, VTrans Director of Structures said he wasn’t ready to commit to it’s being done this summer.“We need more than twice what we’ve asked the legislature for in order to get that far down the list,” Hedges told the Chester Telegraph.

Weston Playhouse, other businesses concerned

If some or all of the projects overlap, it could make getting to Weston difficult, and that could have a negative impact on businesses that depend on summer visitors.

Leslie Koenig, managing director for the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company, says that she hopes the board will make every effort to inform the public about detour options. “I think it comes down to who your audience is, and what constitutes a local,” said Koenig. “I for example, as someone who’s lived here for a little over two years, wouldn’t naturally know how to go around an obstacle unless someone were to point me in the right direction.”

The Playhouse season launches on June 23. The main stage production of Man of La Mancha will preview on June 28 and open on July 1, so Koenig is hoping for construction to be finished before then. Another tourism draw, the Weston Priory, will be holding its annual retreat from June 5 through 19, and will be closed to visitors during that time.

Even with careful planning in place, Lindsay Grattan, who manages a cheese shop at the Weston Village Store, says that she’s concerned with a drop in traffic because a large portion of her business comes from passersby on their way to Ludlow and beyond.

Weston Select Board member Jim Linville told The Chester Telegraph that he will speak with Crandall this week about putting up detour signs. The next Weston Select Board meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday April 12 at the Weston Town Office, 12 Lawrence Hill Road in Weston.

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About the Author: Christopher Biddle is a journalist, radio DJ and lifelong Vermonter. He hosts the 9 to 11 a.m. Sunday Rewind show on 102.7 WEQX. In addition to The Chester Telegraph and The Mountain Times he has written for other local publications. His audio work includes stories for VPR and Slate Magazine's podcast network. He collects VHS tapes and knows how to use a chainsaw.

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