Plymouth Now Largely Accessible, But More Work Needed

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(Host) Two weeks ago, Plymouth was one of the 13 towns isolated by Irene.

Big chunks of the state routes in and out of town, were washed away entirely, and other nearby roads were impassable.

Now, two of those three routes are in remarkably good shape.

VPR’s Samantha Fields reports.

(trucks rumbling down the street)

(Fields) If you’re standing on a road in Plymouth and you don’t see – or hear – a truck rumbling by, just wait a few minutes. They’re everywhere. And Jill Davies, the volunteer coordinator of the town’s recovery assistance center, says the progress they’re making is remarkable.

(Davies) "It’s amazing! I’ve never seen so many trucks. We’ve had the state workers, we’ve got our own town crews working, we’ve got the army working. We’ve never seen so much heavy machinery on the roads."

(Fields) All the trucks and machinery have made it possible to drive through Plymouth in a car.

Driving around town in a Farm and Wilderness van, the camps’ executive director Pieter Bohen points out what a big deal that is…

(Bohen) "The day of the flood, all of 100 was washed away into about a 40 foot cliff going into the river. And it completely cut off Plymouth. Plymouth was cut off in every direction. So 100 south had this 40 foot crevasse."

(Fields) For 10 days, even emergency vehicles couldn’t get in.

Today, two bridges on 100A are still out. But where you once couldn’t even get near Plymouth on Route 4 north of town, it’s now in pretty good shape… though it hasn’t been repaved yet. The same is true for most of Route 100.

Still, for many people getting to work is a challenge. Certain sections of road are only accessible if you have a little cardstock pass, stamped and signed by the town clerk. And it just takes much longer to do everything – from grocery shopping to getting kids to school.

(Fields) So how would you rate the town’s accessibility at the moment?

(Bohen) Well, I’d say right now we’re probably a 6 out of 10 in that you can get to us, you don’t have to have a high clearance, 4wd vehicle. But the hours of the day you can get through all the construction traffic vary. And sometimes you can get everyone to work (sound of car having trouble on road… "whoa"). And other times our staff and certainly our visitors have not been able to come.

(Fields) And certain sections of the road, as we just saw are…

(Bohen) (Laugh) "Yeah, it’s unpredictable. You can’t get going too fast, that’s for sure."

(Fields) There are still "Road Closed" signs everywhere… but Sheriff Michael Chamberlain says that’s mostly just to keep non-residents out.

(Chamberlain) "What we’re trying to do is just limit it to the people who really need to use the roads here. Because all the people going through, every time they come to a little place where there’s traffic control there, the workers have to stop, move out of the road, and get all the traffic through."

(Fields) But with fall foliage season rapidly approaching, the closures are hurting this little mountain town, which is heavily dependent on tourism.

Town roads were also badly damaged by the storm. Road foreman Larry Lynds is responsible for all 64 of them.

(Fields) "Were there any roads in town untouched?"
(Lynds) "Couple a real short ones."

(Fields) "Are they your new favorite roads?"
(Lynds) (Laughs.) "Yeah. I don’t think I have a favorite road right now. They’re all just a pile of rock."

(Fields) But already, Lynds and his crew have turned many of those piles of rock into serviceable roads.  

Most are still only four wheel drive accessible. And in many cases, what were once two way paved roads are one lane dirt roads… for now.

But Lynds says by winter, the roads will be back.

(Lynds) "They will actually be accessible with a 2-wheel drive car. Low car, they won’t bottom out, they’ll be good. If they’re that good, I can plow ‘em."

(Fields) Selectboard Chair Ralph Michaels, says that it’s hugely important that the town’s roads be open to everyone in time for ski season, if not before… Killington is just a few miles up, after all… and Okemo is just down the road.

For VPR News, I’m Samantha Fields.

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