Route 17 construction continues

NEW HAVEN/WALTHAM/ADDISON — Those heading to Addison County Fair and Field Days by Route 17 this week will have a bumpy ride.
Construction on the length of road between Route 22A in Addison and Route 7 in New Haven has been under way since June, and the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) estimates it will continue until mid-November.
Pike Industries, the contractors on the project, will pause construction for the week of Field Days, instead doing simple maintenance on the road to allow it to handle the increased traffic headed to the fair. David Hoyne, a VTrans construction engineer, cautioned that the road will still be a work zone — most of the road now has a covering of rough-cut stones. He advised drivers on Route 17 to consider the state’s “safe roads at safe speeds” policy and limit their speed while driving on Route 17.
“We use that for roads in the winter, but the same thing is true with our construction zones,” he said. “Be an alert driver — put down the cell phone, pay attention, and be careful.”
Hoyne acknowledged, though, that car issues are inevitable on a construction project of this magnitude — the method involves stripping off the top layers of the road, putting down a rough gravel base that will help with drainage and prevent frost heaves, then topping it with a concrete platform and pavement.
“There’s going to be incidental damage — there are flat tires on every road,” he said.
Addison resident Jeff Nelson, who lives along Route 17 in the construction zone, reported a tire that was run through by a rock shard.
“We can’t avoid it,” he said. “The only way we can get to our property is to drive on that sharp, angular rock … it’s not your average dirt road.”
Martha Orvis, manager at Boise Citgo in Bridport, said in one day last week, the shop repaired four tires punctured by the gravel on Route 17. She, too, recommended slow, careful driving.
“A lot of them are people who don’t know, or people who aren’t driving as carefully as they should,” she said.
Hoyne said VTrans understands the risks involved in driving on a road under construction, and requires all contractors to cover incidental automotive damage in their insurance. He said those who feel that they have a claim of tire or other damage because of the construction should contact VTrans for information on submitting a claim for the damage.
Ultimately, said Nelson, though he’s frustrated about the puncture to his tire, the project will be welcomed once finished.
“We’re very happy this road is being fixed,” he said.
Still, some are frustrated by the fact that the project is happening all at once, with long stretches of the road held up partway through the process for months at a time.
To that, Hoyne said in a time of tight state budgets, the most inexpensive bid wins the contract, and the construction method is determined by the contractor.
“We give the parameters of what we want done, but we don’t generally get involved in the means and methods,” said Hoyne. “We feel that the contractors know the best ways to do this work.”
In this case, the best way turned out to be completing the whole seven-mile stretch at the same time.
“It’s really efficiencies of scale here,” he said.
While this may lead to increased complaints from people traveling over those roads, Hoyne said all road and bridge projects inconvenience people who live nearby, but that sometimes the work just needs to be done.
“We know that once we’re done here, we’re going to be leaving a product that for the next 10 to 15, or maybe 20 years, will be in good shape,” Hoyne said.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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