Traffic Alert! Big Route 7 paving project is dead ahead

ADDISON COUNTY — Travelers and residents along Route 7 between Middlebury village and the Ferrisburgh-Charlotte line can expect traffic delays and the smell of asphalt this summer and next, beginning in the middle of this July.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation his contracted with New York’s Gorham Group to pave 18.374 miles of western Vermont’s major North-South corridor, with the $5.53 million project set to begin in earnest in Middlebury in the week of July 11 to 15. According to VTrans Project Manager Jon Harrington the entire project is federally funded. 
This year’s work includes the 7.87 miles starting just north of the intersection of Route 7 and High Street in Middlebury and ending just short of Lime Kiln Road in New Haven, just north of New Haven Junction, according to VTrans officials.
VTrans resident engineer Josh Hulett said Gorham Group workers will be setting up signs and a mobile office between July 5 and 8, but the effort should begin in earnest the following week with a target completion date for this first segment of Oct. 4. 
The remaining 10.5 miles will be resurfaced in 2017 and include upgrades to the railroad crossing outside of Vergennes in Ferrisburgh, including a gate across the highway, and to the signals at the intersection of Routes 7 and 22A.  
“Next spring, we will pick up at Lime Kiln Road and proceed to the town line of Ferrisburgh and Charlotte,” Hulett said.
Other than signal-light and rail-crossing upgrades in New Haven Junction and a new centerline rumble strip, this year’s work will simply consist of a new, three-quarter-inch coat of asphalt and redone striping, VTrans officials said.
Hulett said every effort will be made to keep traffic flowing, but Route 7 will often be reduced to one lane. 
“There will be flaggers present with one-way traffic during operations. If somehow the traffic control coordinators can make two-way traffic we will absolutely try and accommodate that. It all depends on the road width and what we can accommodate,” Hulett said. 
Hulett said the VTrans contract calls for Gorham Group to work from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. if necessary, with no concessions to commuter traffic. He can step in if delays become unmanageable, however. 
“There’s nothing in the contract that says anything about peak hours,” he said. “If it becomes a problem, where there is any traffic, I have the right to suspend operations. But I’m hoping with the flaggers present I’m hoping we can maintain a safe (flow) with as little delay as we can. But it is construction season. We might have some delays.”
The much-discussed change of the Middlebury Route 7-Exchange Street intersection into a roundabout will not be made, at least this time around, although flaggers will work that busy T-junction.  
“It’s not part of this project,” Hulett said.
Nor is the new traffic light at the Ferrisburgh intersection of Route 7 and Little Chicago Road part of this project, but Hulett, also that task’s resident engineer, said that $346,950 effort will be done at the same time. 
Curbing and striping work for the new Ferrisburgh traffic signals, which will flash yellow at night but regularly stop traffic otherwise, will begin in mid-July. Later this summer the light installation will be done, Hulett said, with a target completion date of Oct. 28.
Hulett hopes to minimize delays through the Ferrisburgh village area, but can’t make promises. 
“The majority of the time during peak hours I want two-way traffic at all times,” he said. “But there are circumstances that prohibit those actions.”
In the larger two-phase Route 7 paving effort, Hulett said no special accommodations are being made for the planned Vermont Gas Co. pipeline or the proposed underground Vermont Green Line electric power line that would bring renewable energy from Northern New York to the New England market via Addison County. 
Hulett said the firms behind those two efforts are working together, but not in conjunction with the Route 7 paving. 
“That’s a separate project, we have no participation with that,” he said. 
However, Hulett does not expect those companies to follow behind and rip up new pavement.
“I believe if they are doing anything with Route 7 they are doing a horizontal directional bore under the road,” Hulett said. “I don’t believe they will excavate any of the road.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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