Construction Season: Highways and much more

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Construction Season: Highways and much more

Sun, 04/25/2021 - 2:46pm -- tim

Photo: Aerial rendering of Colchester Exit 16. Courtesy Photo.

by C.B. Hall, Vermont Business Magazine While the Agency of Transportation's list of highway projects this year is prodigious (see below), the agency does a lot more than replace worn pavement and fix bridges on Vermont's state, federal and interstate roadways.

AOT and its many partners also reconfigure city streets, maintain state-owned rail corridors, develop bicycle-pedestrian trails, build sidewalks, and perform an abundance of other infrastructure chores.

These other projects, often managed by towns and cities, tend to be more interesting than the usual routine of installing traffic lights and paving over potholes. This year, for example, AOT's work list will include reinforcing the stone underpinnings of the covered bridge that connects Windsor with Cornish, New Hampshire.

At 449 feet, the Windsor-Cornish structure was the nation's longest covered bridge until 2008, when a longer one was completed in Ohio. Built in 1866 for only $9,000, or about $160,000 in today's money, the Connecticut River crossing was a privately owned toll bridge until the 1930s.

The original toll eastbound into New Hampshire, which unlike Vermont boasted legal sales of alcohol, was 2 cents.

But, perhaps because of the ease of wringing an extra copper out of an inebriated traveler, coupled with the promptings of penny-conscious Yankee culture, returning westbound to Windsor cost 3 cents.

The reinforced bridge, which enjoys a place on the National Register of Historic Places, will thus continue to remind us of how New Englanders once lived.

The price tag for the work is a mere $90,000, a tiny fraction of what some of the projects on AOT's 2021 list will cost.

For instance, the next Connecticut River crossing to the north, the I-89 traverse at White River Junction, will be rehabbed and widened over the next four years for about $17 million.

The AOT project list also includes restoration of the 1880 covered bridge over the Mad River, just off Vermont 100 in Warren.

In Cambridge AOT will meanwhile be stabilizing a covered bridge that the state acquired in 1950 to maintain access to a farm field isolated at that time, when the state built a new bridge across the nearby Lamoille River to accommodate Vermont 15.

 

Big Burlington-area projects: Not quite yet

The chart, below, also omits a couple of very big projects that simply haven't happened yet.

They include the Champlain Parkway,  which is an addition to Burlington's road infrastructure that has been in the works since before most of us were born.

Conceived in the highway-building heyday of the 1960s, and the subject of much controversy since, the project still has gas in the tank today, even although walkability, environmental justice, and open space conservation have replaced "See the USA in your Chevrolet" as watchwords of transportation development.

No substantive work on the ground is expected for the parkway this year, but things are moving forward, slowly.

The Burlington Public Works Department, the lead partner in the undertaking, is awaiting a Federal Highway Administration record of decision on the project.

That decision will likely approve a limited-scope supplemental environmental impact statement completed by consultants for city, and permit the shovel work to begin, Burlington Public Works director Chapin Spencer reported.

He said a request for bids could go out as early as September, but called a launch construction this year only "a remote possibility."

"It is a two-year construction project once we get under way," he said.

Assuming construction begins next year, completion by September 2024 – the date anticipated on the AOT website – "sounds about right," in his words.

When completed, the project will create 2.8 miles of new or redesigned two-lane roadway between the west end of I-189 and downtown Burlington.

Asked about the cost of the long-planned undertaking, Spencer said that the city put about $14 million into the effort since it assumed its project management role in 1998.

Construction is not quite imminent on the other big Burlington-area project, either – that being the remake of I-89's exit 16 interchange, which serves US 2/7 in Colchester.

Photo: Street view rendering of Colchester Exit 16. Courtesy Photo.

The new intersection will become a so-called diverging diamond interchange (DDI); that is, traffic on US 2/7 will cross over to the left side of the roadway so as to facilitate left-hand turns onto the interstate's ramps without left-turn lanes, dedicated left-turn signals, and the risks of cutting through oncoming traffic – hassles that, for example, anyone leaving the nearby Costco or Shaw's and heading onto I-89 southbound encounters today.

DDIs are already in use across the United States and in several foreign countries.

While they have their drawbacks – notably including confusion among drivers who haven't seen the critter before – their advantages are clear.

They reduce the number of phases, or intervals dedicated to successive streams of traffic, in each cycle of traffic-signal changes.

They eliminate queues of motorists waiting for left-turn signals and thus move the traffic along more quickly. And a DDI is a cheap solution compared, for example, to the wholesale reconstruction of an interchange, including in this case I-89's twin bridges.

The original plans for the undertaking, priced at about $14 million according to the AOT project website, date from 2012, but litigation over aspects of the project kept it on the drawing board for several years.

While a November 2020 Vermont Supreme Court judgment appears to have put an end to the courtroom battles, AOT is not planning on commencing construction this season, as preliminaries to the shovel work unfold.

The project is expected to go out to bid in early 2022, with construction beginning later that year and winding up in spring 2025, according to the website.

A few miles to the south, the city of South Burlington will be more active this summer, replacing the temporary bridge that has spanned Muddy Brook, on Kimball Avenue at the Williston line, since 2017.

Photo: Rip-rap supports the bridge abutments on Kimball Avenue above the Muddy Brook at the South Burlington-Williston line. VBM Photo.

A spring storm that year damaged the culvert that the earthen structure traversed, creating a big hole in the roadway.

The temporary bridge subsequently installed served its purpose until late 2019, when high water washed away the culvert and the soil surrounding it.

By placing rip-rap along the brook's banks, the city reopened the bridge on the last day of that year.

In September 2020, to create a less bumpy ride for the 7,000 plus vehicles the bridge sees on an average day, South Burlington Public Works closed the bridge for three days and paved it with a thin layer of asphalt, but the asphalt soon became what one motorist termed "a minefield of potholes."

That led the city to tear out the asphalt, necessitating yet another short closure. It was paved again with the same result. The new pavement was beaten by motorists mostly off the bridge, in which state everyone is working with until a permanent solution arrives.

The Burlington Free Press then reported that the bridge was "shaky but safe" – although perhaps not for everyone, given the lack of dedicated space for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The tribulations should however come to an end this summer, as the temporary structure will be removed and a culvert installed that will be "buried and out of sight," the city's Public Works director, Justin Rabidoux, told VBM.

The new crossing will include sidewalks for foot-powered travelers. Construction is expected to begin in June, with the goal of completing the work 12 weeks later – almost four-and-a-half years since the original failure.

 

Bikes And Pedestrians Count, Too

Foot-powered travel should also get a boost this year along the Cross Vermont Trail in Washington County, where contractors will be extending Montpelier's existing bike-pedestrian path east to U-32 Middle-High School, and then across the Winooski on a new, dedicated bridge.

From there the construction will continue a short distance along the north side of US 2 to a point just beyond the East Montpelier line.

The Cross Vermont Trail is a 90-mile route that follows the Winooski and Wells Rivers from Lake Champlain to the Connecticut River. With the new Montpelier-East Montpelier segment in place, 30 miles of off-road trail will be open, with the remaining 60 still in public roadways.

Greg Western, executive director of the Cross Vermont Trail Association, told VBM that the ultimate goal is to get the whole trail off the road wherever possible.

"Our prioritization is to get off the busiest roads first" – meaning central Washington County, for example.

"Our goal is to get it open by the end of this year," he said, referring to the 1.8-mile Montpelier-East Montpelier segment.

Pedestrians and bicyclists will also be welcoming progress in Bennington, where several routes will be developed for their use this year and in 2022.

The paths, and one active transportation corridor that combines an off-street path with on-street bicycle lanes, total some four miles, all on the north side of the South Shire's main community.

"There's a [Bennington County Regional Commission] comprehensive plan to connect all the pathways in an appropriate way – so we're basically building out a network in our entire community," Bennington assistant town manager Dan Monks said.

The projects on the current work list "will form the backbone of the network."

The pending projects will among other things create a route for non-motorized travel between Bennington College and downtown – some four miles – and allow people without cars to patronize the north side's box stores and fast-food outlets more easily.

The initiative will however leave the southern half of Bennington untouched for now, as it lacks the concentration of commercial attractions and is somewhat less densely populated than the north side.

 

Major Projects Spur Community Amenities

Improved community amenities will come in the wake of a major transportation undertaking in Middlebury, where a multiyear project that has replaced two old bridges in the heart of the shire town will wind up this spring.

That effort also lowered the railbed of the Vermont Railway tracks that ran beneath the two nearly adjacent bridges, which a tunnel 350 feet long has now supplanted.

Atop the tunnel and between the former bridges' locations, the town will be putting in a small park this year; a bit to the north, the town will be creating a park on what was a major excavation site during the main phase of the tunnel project.

These improvements will put the final touches on the undertaking, whose price tag will wind up in the $70-80 million range.

Photo: A vehicle tip-toes across the temporary bridge as a smidge of asphalt still clings to the road bed. VBM Photo.

A quarter-mile north of the tunnel, AOT will be launching construction this summer of a boarding platform to be ready when Amtrak service is extended from Rutland north to Burlington late this year or early in 2022.

Jim Gish, Middlebury's municipal liaison for the tunnel project, told VBM that the town has meanwhile contracted for construction of a landscaped parking lot to serve the Amtrak stop, again for completion before the first train pulls in.

The demise of the two bridges has thus nested well with civic enhancements that will serve the town for many years to come.

A somewhat similar sequence of improvements has unfolded in Waterbury, which has gotten plenty of attention in the wake of tropical storm Irene's unwelcome visit 10 years ago.

The TLC has encompassed, among other things, reinventing what remained of the Waterbury State Hospital as a state office complex, spiffing up the Vermont 100-US 2 intersection with a new roundabout, replacing bridge decks on I-89, and rehabbing the Waterbury-Stowe Road, a key corridor for retail outlets such as Ben & Jerry's and Cold Hollow Cider.

All of the improvements are now complete, with the exception of the so-called Waterbury Main Street project.

That undertaking, like the amenity upgrades in Middlebury, is demonstrating how the updating of transportation infrastructure dovetails with any number of initiatives to help a community both serve residents and attract visitors.

In the words of the pertinent AOT webpage, the Main Street project will "rebuild a 1-mile section of Route 2 integrating pedestrian and streetscape improvements and facilitating access."

Having begun in 2019, with an expected completion date of 2022, the project is entering its final phases, according to the town's community transportation liaison, Barbara Farr.

In terms of road construction, the street, which US 2 and Vermont 100 follow through the downtown, needs only a final layer of asphalt, which will go on this summer. Farr expected that the final touch, removing the utility poles and the transmission lines undergrounded earlier in the project, will not however be complete until the summer of 2022.

"Things went really well last year," she noted, "because businesses were closed, people were working from home, schools were closed, or in the fall they opened part-time" because of the pandemic. "The contractors were able to get a lot of work done while people were not on the road."

The remaking of the town's main thoroughfare, and a bit of two adjoining side streets, will cost $22 million, she estimated.

"Not only is the downtown going to be a lot more beautiful and a lot safer, with the bump-outs and so forth ... the big stuff is the stuff people aren't even going to see – the underground water lines, storm drains, electrical lines. The infrastructure improvements are setting Waterbury up for the next 50-plus years."

In other words, AOT's job is not simply to get you down the highway more easily, but also to maintain and improve the things that make Vermont an attractive place to live or visit – be that rail trails that beckon the cyclist, or streetscapes that, as a long year of social isolation fades into history, invite neighbors who have not seen each other in all too long, and visitors too long absent, to sit down for a leisurely coffee at a sidewalk cafe.

 

2021 Construction Projects

 

TOWNS, CITIES

ROADS

AFFECTED

DESCRIPTION OF WORK

START

DATE

COMPLETED BY

Addison

VT 125

Replacement of bridge over Wards Creek

July

October

Bakersfield

VT 108

Drainage and other improvements at junction with VT 36

2020

May

Barton

I-91

Bridge maintenance at mile marker 160, northbound only

November

2022

Bennington

VT 7A

Rail trail construction at crossing of 7A

July

2022

Berkshire

VT 118

Remediation of culvert

May

December

Berlin

VT 12

Bridge maintenance at unnamed creek

August

October

Berlin

I-89

Replacement of decks of bridges over Crosstown Rd.

2020

2022

Berlin

I-89

Replacement of decks of bridges at exit 7, over VT 62

2020

2022

Berlin to East Montpelier

US 2

Construction of shared-use path along north side of US 2, .2 miles

August

2022

Bethel to Sharon

I-89

Repaving, 13.2 miles, both directions, including ramps

2020

August

Bloomfield

VT 102

Maintenance of Nulhegan River bridge

April

June

Brattleboro

VT 9

Maintenance of bridge over I-91

December

2022

Brattleboro

VT 142

Replacement of Vermont-New Hampshire bridges

May

2024

Brattleboro

I-91, US 5

Installation of debris catch systems on I-91 bridges over US 5

August

October

Bridgewater, Plymouth

VT 100A

Repaving, ~7 miles

July

2022

Bridgewater to Ludlow

VT 100

Rehabilitation or replacement of culverts, repaving, ~14 miles

April

2022

Bridport, Middlebury

VT 125

Culvert replacement, repaving, rumble strip installation, ~8 miles

April

November

Brownington

VT 58

Rehabilitation of culvert

July

October

Burlington

US 7

Reconstruction of intersection with Locust St. and Ledge Rd.

July

2023

Burlington

US 7

Concrete repair, .1 mile near South Burlington line

April

October

Burlington, South Burlington

I-189

Repair of ramps

April

October

Calais

VT 14

Replacement of three bridges

April

2022

Cavendish, Weathersfield

VT 131

Rehabilitation, 9.0 miles

2020

October

Chelsea to Thetford

VT 113

Replacement or rehabilitation of culverts, ~15 miles

March

April

Chester, Springfield

VT 10

Resurfacing, 4.4 miles

April

2022

Chester, Springfield

VT 11

Replacement or rehabilitation of culverts

March

December

Chester, Springfield

VT 11

Resurfacing, ~10 miles

April

2022

Clarendon

US 7

Maintenance of bridges over Mill River

April

June

Colchester, Essex

VT 15

Construction of parallel shared-use path, 1.6 miles

September

2022

Derby

VT 191

Various maintenance projects at bridge over I-91

April

June

Dorset

US 7

Improvement of grade crossing with Vermont Railway

July

2022

East Montpelier, Plainfield

VT 214

Repaving, ~2.3 miles

March

July

Eden

VT 118

Repaving, 4.6 miles

April

August

Enosburgh

VT 118

Replacement of bridge near Prive Hill Rd.

April

October

Essex

VT 117

Replacement of failed culvert at Alder Brook

April

October

Essex

VT 128

Maintenance of culvert at Alder Brook

August

October

Fair Haven

US 4

Replacement of culverts, both directions, between Exits 2 and 3

May

July

Fair Haven to Rutland Town

US 4

Repaving, both directions,18.8 miles, ramps included

2020

September

Fayston

VT 17

Repaving, 4.5 miles

July

October

Ferrisburgh

US 7

Installation of traffic lights at Old Hollow Rd.

April

October

Franklin, Sheldon

VT 120

Repaving, 5.2 miles

April

June

Glover

VT 16

Maintenance of bridge over Barton River

April

June

Groton to Newbury

US 302

Resurfacing, 11.5 miles

May

November

Hartford

VT 14, US 4

Repaving, other improvements, ~1.4 miles in White River Junction

April

2022

Hartford

US 5

Construction of roundabout at Sykes Ave.

2020

November

Hartford

I-91

Maintenance of Chandler Rd. overpass

August

November

Hartford

I-91

Replacement of joints on White River bridges

2020

November

Hartford

I-89

Rehabilitation and widening of Vermont-New Hampshire bridges

2020

2025

Hartland

VT 12

Replacement of deck of Lulls Brook bridge

August

October

Hartland

I-91

Rehabilitation of Depot Rd. overpass

2020

June

Hinesburg

VT 116

Improvements at intersection with Shelburne Falls Rd.

2020

August

Irasburg to Craftsbury

VT 14

Repaving, 7.3 miles

April

August

Johnson

VT 15

Repair of bridge over Lamoille River

April

June

Johnson

VT 15

Remediation of roadside slope

June

August

Johnson to Morristown

VT 15

Resurfacing, 9.9 miles

May

2022

Londonderry to Chester

VT 11

Rehabilitation of roadway, 14.0 miles

2019

2021

Middlebury

VT 125, VT 30

Repaving from US 7 within town highway limits, total 1.9 miles

May

October

Middlebury

US 7

Repaving in Middlebury village, 1.4 miles

May

October

Middlesex

I-89

Culvert maintenance; traffic will affect northbound traffic only

June

October

Montpelier

US 2

Improvement of railroad crossing

October

2022

Morristown

VT 100

Resurfacing, .4 miles, in Morrisville village

May

2022

Morristown

VT 15A

Repaving, 1.5 miles

May

2022

Morristown, Stowe

VT 100

Repaving and other improvements, 7.5 miles

2020

July

Newport Town, Troy

VT 100

Maintenance and replacement of culverts, ~4 miles

April

October

North Hero, Grand Isle

US 2

Replacement of bridge over Lake Champlain

2018

2023

Norton

VT 114

Maintenance of Averill Creek bridge

August

October

Norwich

VT 10A

Replacement of traffic signals

December

2022

Norwich to Hartland

I-91

Repaving, both directions, 8.8 miles, including ramps

May

2022

Pittsford

US 7

Reconstruction, 1.4 miles

2020

November

Plymouth

VT 100

Replacement of two culverts carrying Reservoir Brook

July

October

Richford

VT 105

Replacement of bridge over Loveland Brook

October

2022

Richford, Jay

VT 105

Resurfacing, 7.4 miles

2020

November

Ripton

VT 125

Roadside slope and streambank remediation, 5.7 miles

April

November

Rockingham

I-91

Replacement of Williams River bridges

2017

June

Rutland Town

BUS US 4

Maintenance of Otter Creek bridge

April

June

Rutland Town, Clarendon

US 7

Replacement of traffic signals

December

2023

St. Albans Town

VT 104

Maintenance of bridge over I-89

April

June

St. Albans Town, Georgia

US 7

Repaving, 8.6 miles

June

September

St. Johnsbury

US 5, Main St.

Bike and pedestrian improvements

August

2022

Sharon

I-89

Rehabilitation of bridges over White River

April

2022

Sharon, Hartford

I-89

Resurfacing, southbound lanes, 12.2 miles

April

September

South Burlington, Shelburne

US 7

Replacement of traffic signals

April

November

Springfield

VT 106

Resurfacing, 3.2 miles

April

2022

Sudbury

VT 30

Culvert rehabilitation at Warrior Lakes

March

July

Thetford, Norwich

US 5

Repaving, ~9 miles

April

August

Underhill

VT 15

Maintenance of bridge over The Creek

April

June

Waterbury

US 2, VT 100

Repaving of Main Street in village, 1.0 miles

June

July

Waterbury

I-89

Maintenance of bridge over US 2; northbound lanes only

April

June

Weathersfield

I-91

Replacement of decks on bridges over VT 131

May

2023

Weston

VT 100

Repaving, 3.8 miles

June

October

Whitingham

VT 100

Repaving, 5.5 miles

April

July

Williston

US 2

Resurfacing, 1.1 miles; reconstruction of Industrial Ave. intersection

May

2023

Williston

VT 2A

Rehabilitation of culvert near Zephyr Rd.

August

August

Wilmington to Brattleboro

VT 9

Resurfacing, culvert replacement, other improvements,12.6 miles

March

2022

Woodstock

VT 12, VT 106

Repaving in Woodstock village, total ~2.6 miles

April

2022

Information is from AOT website, project managers and/or local authorities. Dates are approximate.

 

C.B. Hall is a freelance writer from Southern Vermont.