By JOHN FLOWERS
ADDISON COUNTY — State officials on Thursday restored two-way traffic on Route 125 from East Middlebury to Hancock, which had been reduced to one lane in spots for more than two weeks, and plan to repave damaged portions of the flood-ravaged road before the end of September.
While work is proceeding smoothly on that stretch of state highway, repairs to other Addison County roads and bridges damaged during the Aug. 6 storm and flooding — notably the Lower Plains Road Bridge in East Middlebury and portions of Route 53 near Lake Dunmore in Salisbury — are in somewhat of a holding pattern. Officials are waiting for word of whether federal disaster repair funds will be available and say time is needed to marshal other resources for these major projects.
Middlebury Director of Operations Dan Werner said it will likely be next summer before workers are able to replace the Lower Plains Road Bridge, a small span that was shifted by the swollen waters of the Middlebury River.
“Both (bridge) abutments were damaged,” Werner said. “That bridge will have to be replaced.”
Residents dependant on that bridge will therefore have to continue to make detours for the better part of a year. As the Addison Independent went to press, federal authorities had still not decided on whether to make an emergency declaration that would provide up to 75 percent of the money needed for flood-related damage repairs in portions of East Middlebury, Hancock, Ripton, Goshen, Salisbury, Leicester, Bridport and Forestdale.
“We’re fairly confident it will qualify, given the extent of the damage,” Vermont Emergency Management (VEM) spokesman Mark Bosma said of the destruction that came from the Aug. 6 storm. The state had to rack up a combined total of more than $1 million in damages to be eligible for a federal disaster declaration. Gov. James Douglas noted back on Aug. 7 that Salisbury officials estimated their town alone had incurred $1 million in damage.
Tops on Salisbury’s storm casualty list were portions of Route 53, also known as Lake Dunmore Road, and the Sucker Brook Bridge just south of the Branbury State Park entrance. Salisbury Selectman Brian Ashley said Route 53 remains impassable at the bridge, which officials hope will be replaced this winter. The project will also require substantial rebuilding of a few hundred feet up Route 53 leading to the northern approach of the bridge, according to Ashley.
In the meantime, detours are the order of the day and will be for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) is simply waiting for the availability of equipment to begin repaving portions of Route 125 eroded by the Aug. 6 storm. VTrans District 5 crews have spent the past three weeks stabilizing Route 125 from East Middlebury to Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf campus in Ripton, while District 3 crews have been repairing the remaining leg of the road to Hancock.
Travel on Route 125 during construction had largely been confined to emergency vehicles and area residents.
Art Danyow, temporary general manager for VTrans District 5, said it has cost around $200,000 thus far for Route 125 repairs from East Middlebury to the Bread Loaf campus.
“And we still have a lot more to do,” Danyow said.
Remaining work will include replacing 500 to 600 feet of guardrail damaged by the storm.