‘Worst of the worst’ on Route 11 budgeted for summer temp fix

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Route 11 is a major east-west corridor between Manchester and Springfield.  It is busy with commercial traffic including gasoline tankers. Wikipedia/Chinissai

Complaints by local officials about the poor condition of Route 11 between Londonderry and Chester appear to have gained some traction of late as VTrans has offered an interim step in repairing the road. And one Londonderry ambulance service member says improvements can’t come soon enough since poor road conditions are increasing the time it takes to get patients to the hospital.

According to state Rep. Oliver Olsen of Londonderry, who recently met with Agency of Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn, VTrans will be doing approximately 2 miles of non-contiguous paving on the worst parts of the road this summer to tide it over until it can be reclaimed in the summer of 2019.

“Route 11 is in really rough shape and needs to be reconstructed from the road bed up, which is a $14 million job scheduled for 2019. That’s not changing; it’s part of the overall capital plan,”  Olsen said on Sunday.

State Rep. Oliver Olsen Chester Telegraph photo

The state doesn’t “like to spend money on interim paving,” Olsen continued, “and this is $200,000.” But according to Olsen, if the transportation budget is passed at the end of the legislative session, the money will be there for the stopgap road work.

In an interview Tuesday night, Secretary Flynn said, “We’ve identified a 9-mile area, addressing the worst (portions) bearing in mind that there are local concerns.” With that, VTrans has budgeted monies to cover 2 miles of temporary repairs that will begin in the 2018 fiscal year that starts July 1.

Flynn said that over the next five years, VTrans will be “doing in excess of $50 million of work” on roads in the region. He added that his agency is “empathetic to the situation” that local drivers find themselves in.  “I think we all wish we could address these issues more immediately,” he said.

Local reps, select boards demand action

While the road has been in rough shape for a number of years, a flurry of complaints in late 2016 into 2017 drew renewed attention to the problem. It began last September, with a sternly worded letter to then AOT Secretary Chris Cole from Olsen, who recounted a number of times when he and other officials were told that work would be done only to see that rescinded. That was followed in November by a complaint from the Londonderry Select Board.

But late this winter, the Andover Select Board upped the pressure by sending a strongly worded letter to newly elected Gov. Phil Scott, calling this east-west roadway “a major safety hazard.”

Scott replied with a letter apologizing for the frustration caused by miscommunication by VTrans. Saying that he had asked VTrans to keep the lines of communication open with area towns, Scott pointed to $75 million in paving projects planned for the next five years and urged the board to speak with VTrans’ chief engineer if there were more questions.

Then on May 1, the Windham Select Board sent another letter to Scott in support of the Andover board’s position. “Having received many complaints from residents, neighbors and passersby …we wanted to let you know that 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 it not properly repaired,” the letter stated.

Getting an accurate reading on an EKG or getting IV access can’t be done on a bumpy road, so sometimes we have to stop … to treat patients and that just makes the trip longer.

Doug Friant
Londonderry EMT

Doug Friant, an advanced EMT and member of the Londonderry Volunteer Rescue Squad, told The Telegraph on Tuesday that the rough road makes his job harder. According to Friant, it’s not safe to drive the ambulance faster than 40 to 45 mph along some sections of the road and the rough ride makes it difficult to treat patients en route.

One particularly rough portion of Route in Chester. Chester Telegraph photo

“We’re so far from the hospitals, that we like to … work on patients while driving,” said Friant, referencing the fact that Springfield Hospital is 23 miles from Londonderry. “Getting an accurate reading on an EKG or getting IV access can’t be done on a bumpy road, so sometimes we have to stop … to treat patients and that just makes the trip longer. Patients with very painful injuries like pelvic fractures or femur fractures can’t be treated for pain unless we have paramedic on board, so they go bouncing down the road suffering. And trying to do CPR while bouncing around is crazy.”

Friant added, “We try to ride the smoothest parts of the road, riding the yellow line, but oncoming traffic doesn’t always pull over and stop like their supposed to” and traffic can back up behind the ambulance.

Andover Select Board chair Red Johnson said on Tuesday that while it would be nice to have all of the road done, “Let’s cross our fingers that they are going to do what they say they are going to do.”

Londonderry Select Board chair Paul Gordon said, “We’re very grateful to Rep. Olsen on behalf of the towns impacted by this improvement.”

While Olsen is optimistic that the work will be done, he cautions that the funding is in the transportation budget now before the legislature. “Transportation seems to be relatively settled, but we can’t be sure until the budget is done and session is over,” he said.

Cynthia Prairie contributed to this article.

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  1. Lew Watters says:

    Thank you local select board chairmen who keep our needs front and center with our state agencies and leaders.

  2. Rick says:

    I live on 11. It’s become the major east west trucking route. All of those trucks, all day and night long. Where is all the road tax going?