(Host) Work is expected to begin this month on a final phase of the Bennington Bypass that will divert traffic from downtown Bennington.
The three-mile stretch of highway will include a reconfigured system of interchanges and a new Southern Vermont Welcome Center.
VPR’s Susan Keese has more.
(Keese) The northern leg of the bypass isn’t scheduled for completion until the spring of 2012.
But with the award of a fifth and final construction contract on the $80 million project, transportation officials say the puzzle pieces are in place.
Combined with the western portion of the highway, which opened in 2004, the northern leg will create an alternate truck route for traffic headed east and west.
Jim Harris for the project manager for the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
(Harris) "So if they’re coming from New York and headed for Brattleboro. Those large trucks will not have to go through town at all because they’ll be able to take the combination of the northern section and the western segment and avoid the downtown area of Bennington."
(Keese) Harris says traffic between Rutland and Brattleboro will also be able to avoid the narrow intersection of Routes 7 and 9 in Bennington’s downtown.
(Harris) "Once the northern section is complete those trucks will be able to get on the systems interchange, take that to Route 9 and head east on Route 9 and never have to go through the downtown. "
(Keese) Harris says the latest contract is worth almost $18 million, and was awarded to J.A. MacDonald of Lyndon Center.
(Harris) "It reconstructs the systems interchange between U.S. Route 7 and the bypass. And the intent there is to accommodate the Welcome Center, which is being designed by Building and General Services. They will be bidding a contract to construct a welcome center in the middle of that interchange."
(Keese) The state of Vermont has budgeted about $3 million for the new welcome center. State Buildings Commissioner Gerry Myers says the need is great in the state’s southwest corner.
(Myers) "We have an awful lots of traffic and our traffic counts predict that it will be one of the busiest in the state."
(Keese) Myers says the busiest information center is the one near Brattleboro in the state’s southeast corner. It sees about 900,000 visitors annually.
Myers says the numbers suggest the Bennington Welcome Center will rival that.
For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese in Manchester.