North Country roads take annual pounding
Mud season is officially over, and that's good news for the folks who have to travel daily on New Hampshire's frost-sensitive roads.
It's also good news for road agents and state Department of Transportation employees, who can start their summer maintenance and road projects. For towns, that means sweeping winter's sand off the pavement, crack-sealing it, and clearing out culverts, plus getting started on the larger projects approved by town meeting voters.
"It's no different than any other year," said John Arruda, Madison selectman. He said this year the town is rebuilding a bridge on East Madison Road, a project that will cost around $200,000. They'll work on another bridge next year, and after that rebuild East Madison Road, which Arruda said, "is at least a $1 million project."
In Freedom, Selectman Neal Boyle would like the state to be more aggressive in fixing one of the secondary state roads that serves local residents and visitors, Cushing Corner Road from Route 153 to Freedom Village.
"The road to Bagdad is in better condition than this road," he commented. Work on the road, he said, is on the bottom of the state's list. He said that the town took it upon itself to fix a section of another unnumbered state road, Moulton Road, which was an immediate hazard to drivers.
It's unlikely that work on the road will float up to the top of the state's Ten Year Plan anytime soon. Jeff Hayes, executive director of the North Country Council, said there's a huge backlog of transportation projects, a backlog that includes the long-delayed Conway Bypass.
NCC is the regional planning agency for the northern third of the state. It's these state agencies that work with local communities to prioritize regional and local transportation infrastructure improvements and projects, including highways, public transit systems, and corridor studies. NCC serves northern Grafton and northern Carroll counties, and all of Coos County.
In the meantime, the major state highway projects this year in northern New Hampshire include: Bartlett-Gorham, guardrail and terminal unit upgrades from the Route 16 and 302 intersection in Bartlett, to the Route 16 and US 2 intersection in Gorham; Berlin, the Route 110 realignment and construction from First Avenue to Wight Street; U.S. Route 2 through Randolph, Gorham and Shelburne, paving work and bridge deck repair.
An $18 million project on Interstate 93 in Franconia and Littleton, mostly pavement rehabilitation. The bridge decks on the bridges over the Connecticut River on I-93 will be repaired.
The work on the new Route 302 Sawyer River Bridge in Hart's Location continues, and is slated to finish up at the end of the summer at the cost of $2.3 million. No traffic hold-ups here - private vehicles go over the temporary bridge installed after tropical storm Irene in 2011. About five miles of Route 302 will get repaved with rubberized chip seal.
In the meantime, a section of the East Conway Road is easier to travel, now that the frost heaves have sunk back into the ground. Several miles of it was recently rehabilitated by the state, but much of the road is still laced with cracks, ready the destructive action of next winter's freeze and thaw cycles.