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Vt road repairs continuing; command center closing

By Wilson Ring

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 25 2011 3:15 p.m. MDT

In this photo taken Oct. 14, 2011, an excavator moves rocks on Vermont Route 107 in Bethel, Vt. A train load of rocks made the journey from Winooski in northwestern Vermont to help rebuild a key state highway in central Vermont. The rock is being mined in Winooski, trucked to the Burlington Rail Yard and loaded onto trains for shipment to Bethel, where it's being used to rebuild Vermont Route 107.

Toby Talbot, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Initial repairs to Vermont's road network damaged by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene are nearly finished as the state prepares for its snowy season, yet many of the fixes were done quickly and engineers don't know how they'll hold up through the winter and spring, an official said Tuesday.

As evidence of the progress made to repair hundreds of roads and scores of bridges damaged in the Aug. 28 storm, the Vermont Agency of Transportation is planning to close its incident command center in Rutland, which was used to direct more than 1,000 workers to help repair road damage in southwestern Vermont.

While most of the roads that were damaged or destroyed have been repaired and paved, projects that would normally take years to plan and study were done on the fly. In some cases, officials expect those repairs might have to be redone in the future.

"We want the traveling public to be cautious about possible hidden hazards on these roads. We are already finding sinkholes and slides," Deputy Transportation Secretary Sue Minter said. "Things may emerge in the winter and spring that we can't yet predict because we don't know how the roads we have built will behave over time."

Flooding from Tropical Storm Irene damaged up to 500 miles of state highways, and 200 bridges were damaged or destroyed.

As of Tuesday, three bridges remains closed — two on Route 12A in Roxbury and one on Route 12 in Barnard — and all but about 19 miles of highways have been reopened. A section of Route 107 in Stockbridge remains closed, as are portions of Route 131 in Cavendish and Route 106 in Weathersfield.

Minter credited the speed with which the roads were repaired to the use of an incident command system set up in the immediate aftermath of the state. Three regional headquarters were set up to plan, carry out and oversee the repairs in their parts of the state.

"I think it's shined a light on how well VTrans can work," she said.

Minter said the repaired roads will be continually monitored, as well the rivers and streams that run near them. In some cases, the rivers have changed course dramatically.

"We consider these emergency repairs. We are doing evaluations and we will continue to evaluate them," she said.

The Vermont Transportation Agency had help from National Guard units from a number of states, as well as transportation workers from New Hampshire, Maine and private contractors.

One of those centers, in Rutland, which oversaw repairs in southwestern Vermont, is due to close on Friday.

"We are getting ready to sweep up and shut the lights out and head back to our full-time assignments," said Tom Trahan, a Transportation Agency project manager who has worked in Rutland since two days after the storm. He normally works out of Berlin.

A second command center in Dummerston is expected to remain in operation through the middle of next month. A center in Berlin has already closed.

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