Rt. 7 upgrades begin in Brandon

BRANDON — After years of planning, hoping, pleading and waiting, work on the long-delayed Route 7 reconstruction project in Brandon has begun with Segment 5.
Early last week, a large, electronic Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) message board was placed on the curve of Park Street and Center Street near the Congregational Church in Brandon, warning southbound motorists that work is under way.
But while everything is in place and some crews are busy on the southern end of the Brandon village, the majority of the work won’t begin until the spring construction season.
“We do allow winter work, but only as approved,” said VTrans project manager Ken Upmal. “There may be some work this winter, but mostly the construction will begin April 15.”
A public meeting on the project for area residents has been scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 2, at 3 p.m. at the Brandon Fire Station.
What has begun is the clearing of the rock ledge on the curve just south of the Brandon Fire Station. Segment 5 contractor J.A. McDonald Inc. may use dynamite to blast out that ridge before winter, Upmal said, but McDonald has to submit a blast plan to VTrans first. Route 7 will then be straightened along that part of the road.
Upmal said McDonald decides what work to do and in what order to do it.
“We don’t mandate what the contractor does and when,” he said. “But they can only do five acres at a time and they can’t dig up the entire road.”
Upmal said there will be paved temporary, two-way detours available during the project and after each construction season passes, all traffic will be back on Route 7 for the winter.
Segment 5 stretches 3.9 miles from the Brandon Fire Station south to Otter Valley Union High School and is to be completed in November 2011. The plan is to widen the road to a 12–foot travel way with 8-foot shoulders, making it consistent with the road north of Brandon and south of Pittsford.
“That’s consistent with most of Route 7 from Bennington to Burlington,” Upmal said. “There is a total of 20 percent that’s not typical and this upgrade represents 12.5 percent of the total.”
A retaining wall will also be built along Jones Pond near Woods Market Garden.
Upmal said VTrans workers will be visiting homes along the construction zone to perform water tests. Workers, who are required to show identification, may visit some homes in the evening when owners are available. The tests are needed to make sure the water is fine now and will be unaffected throughout construction.
“We’re testing the water all along the corridor,” Upmal said. “It’s to protect the property owners and to protect us, so we have a baseline of water quality for every property owner.”
Upmal also said plenty of notice will be given to property owners as access to their property is needed to widen the road.
“We will tell property owners ahead of time,” he said. “But when we get to that day, we’ll need all-day access because at some point, we’ll have to excavate the driveways, so they’ll need to be out by 8 a.m. and not back until 4 p.m.”
The total upgrade is split into six segments from the McDonald’s in Brandon south to Pittsford south of the Mobil station. VTrans hopes to complete Segment 5, then 3, then 4, connecting Brandon and Pittsford, in the next six years.
“We’re looking forward to getting this construction started and completing these segments,” Upmal said.
Anyone with question about Segment 5 can call 247–3433.

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