Major Vergennes paving project to start in April

VERGENNES — If the weather cooperates, a months-long $2.66 million repaving of Vergennes’ main artery will begin as soon as April 1, Vermont Agency of Transportation officials and representatives of contractor J. Hutchins Inc. announced at a Tuesday meeting in the city fire station.
Because what is Main Street in Vergennes is also Vermont Route 22A, VTrans and the federal government are picking up the tab for a 2.75-mile project that will include resurfacing New Haven Road and the stretch of Green Street between Main Street and New Haven Road.
Those roads were once part of U.S. Route 7, Vergennes Department of Public Works head Jim Larrow said at the Tuesday meeting, and thus are still the responsibility of state and federal government.
On Tuesday a handful of road experts offered an overview of the work and answered questions from more than two-dozen residents. They were project liaison Natalie Boyle, who can be reached at [email protected] for those who are interested in weekly project updates; VTrans Project Supervisor Nick Pappas; and four J. Hutchins representatives, including Brandon Kipp and Chris Lavalette.
Kipp said the top two inches of the existing road surface will be scraped away and replaced with a half-inch of leveling base and 1.5 inches of “wearing surface.” The work will almost entirely be done in the existing footprint, he said, with little or no work to drainage infrastructure or sidewalks.
Officials said because the project is federally funded, new standards for parking spaces willbe applied, resulting in the loss of two-dozen spots, including a dozen downtown between South Water and East streets.
Pappas said temporary lines will be put down after the half-inch base, and city officials can then evaluate whether they wanted to paint different final lines with more parking spaces when the project is complete.
But Larrow advised against it, and most in the room appeared to accept the loss of spaces.
“The reason for the guidelines is they protect pedestrians, and they protect vehicles,” Larrow said.
The project will include traffic-calming measures, including three bulb-outs on the north side of Main Street, at Macdonough Drive, Green Street and Monkton Road.
Officials said the bulb-outs will be slightly smaller than those on the other side of the road because the north side offers parallel parking, not the opposite side’s diagonal, pull-in parking. They said the new bulb-outs won’t extend further into the roadway than the parked cars.
Another new feature will be sharrows, or shared-lane road markings, that will be periodically spaced and run the length of Main Street. They will indicate that lanes should be shared by vehicles and cyclists. Officials said they looked into the possibility of a bike lane, but the roadway was not wide enough.
Officials had already pledged not to begin heavy work downtown until after the city’s major Memorial Day parade, which draws as many as 10,000 spectators.
On Tuesday Vergennes Farmers Market organizer Christopher Reck asked if the work would interfere with those afternoon events on the city’s green.
Kipp’s response answered a major question for many: He said paving in that zone in the heart of the city’s downtown will occur at night.
“It shouldn’t be a problem,” he said.
When asked about the start date, officials acknowledged weather could be a factor.
“It’s weather-dependent, but April 1st,” said Lavallette.
The end date is also hard to pin down, Pappas added.
“The idea is to start in the spring and finish before the snow flies,” he said.
In response to other questions:
•  Lavalette reassured residents, “We’ll make sure you have access to all your driveways.”
•  Pappas said he expected truck traffic to dwindle as drivers spread the word that one-lane traffic will become the norm much of the time. “We don’t go and tell them where to go,” he said. “They’ll catch on pretty quick.”
Pappas added VTrans will consider one resident’s recommendation of a sign in Addison suggesting truckers consider alternate routes.
•  Officials clarified that work west of the Otter Creek bridge and east of East Street will be done during the daytime, while work between Macdonough Drive and East Street will primarily be done at night. Boyle acknowledged that downtown residents might be unhappy with that arrangement, and that everybody who lives and drives in Vergennes will be inconvenienced at some point.
But she said Hutchins is doing and would do its best to accommodate concerns.
“They try to make it work for everybody,” Boyle said.  

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