In Stockbridge, Roads Among State’s Most Devastated

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(Host) In the aftermath of Irene, one common theme that’s emerged is the way towns have pulled together in the effort to recover.

That’s certainly true in the small mountain town of Stockbridge, where the damage to roads, in particular, was some of the worst in the state.

But three weeks after the flooding, a key route in and out of town remains closed, creating commuter headaches, among other issues. And, as VPR’s Lynne McCrea reports, for some residents patience is beginning to wear thin.

(Joanne Mills) "All of the guardrails were ripped apart."

(McCrea) Joanne Mills is driving along a passable portion of route 107 heading east to Bethel.

(Mills) "Whoa! Okay."

(McCrea) A section of the road is down to one lane, and along an embankment, there are stretches where the pavement just drops off.

Then, the road ends. This is the section of route 107 that the usually idyllic White River washed away completely.

Now, a crew with the Maine National Guard works to shore up the embankment.

(Mills) "They’re doing a great job, but I’m a little frustrated because some of the people we need to help live on the other side and they’re completely cut off, just completely."

(McCrea) For days after the storm, Stockbridge was completely cut off from the rest of the state. Three weeks later, many roads have been restored.

But Mills says the driving is rough and there are long delays, making it challenging for those who need to get to work.

(Mills) "Sen. Dick McCormack wrote a letter to people’s employers – just so they could take it to their jobs to explain that it’s still not easy. And it isn’t easy for people to get to work. It’s a hardship."

(Cheryl Rivers)"Are selectmen going to be meeting?"

(McCrea) And now, with route 107 still closed, frustration has begun to creep in – as heard at a recent meeting with town officials.

(Rivers) "And will there be a written plan at some point about where we’re going?"

(McCrea) Cheryl Rivers is a Stockbridge resident and former state senator. She says the route 107 closure is hurting people who need to drive to Bethel, and beyond, for work.

(Rivers) "As the days went by, and we didn’t hear a plan for restoring road access in the area, I became increasingly concerned because my neighbors are losing their jobs, because route 107 was closed."

(Sargent) "While you guys were hit harder than anyone we’ve seen. They’re doing a good job."

(McCrea) Representatives from the Regional Planning Commission are also at the meeting.

They’re here, in part, to help local officials keep residents informed.

Kevin Geiger is a senior planner.

(Geiger) "What’s happened to date is that often the people who would do the informing – the selectboard, road commissioner, have been flat out working so hard, they can’t get down off the excavator to talk to anybody."

(McCrea) At a selectboard meeting the next morning, Chairman Mark Pelletier looks tired, as he shuffles through a stack of papers and invoices.

(Pelletier) "Like all the debris- there’s trees. Think we can get a logger in, hearing plans to burn that stuff."

(McCrea) Not only does Stockbridge face a multitude of short-term challenges, Selectboard member Willis Whitaker says it’s beginning to deliberate a long-term issue as well: how to better place certain roads to avoid future wash outs.

(Whitaker) "And that’s a fine line between what you can afford to do, and what has to happen right now for temporary to get people out versus the long term and allowing the rivers and brooks to do what everybody wants them to do."

(McCrea) For the time being, road work continues all across Stockbridge, and residents can only hope that route 107 will open soon.

For VPR news, I’m Lynne McCrea.

(Host) Route 107 in Stockbridge remains closed to all daytime traffic, and is only open to local traffic overnight.

On Friday transportation officials hope to announce an estimated timeline for re-opening the handful of roads – like 107 – that are requiring ‘much more significant repairs’ than others around the state.

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