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Too Painful For the Patient
Franklin Rescue avoids Route 120
November 12, 2008 - Reprinted with permission from the St. Albans Messenger & Nat Worman
By NAT WORMAN
FRANKLIN – Franklin Rescue Administrative Director Jennifer M. Wright said Tuesday that Route 120 is in
such bad shape that the squad’s ambulance can no longer use it when transporting patients who are suffering
That situation, according to Mike Fowler, pavement management engineer with the
Agency of Transportation (VTrans), won’t be changing anytime soon.
"One reason it is not high on the list in our division is mainly traffic volume,” Fowler said. “It is pretty low (on the priority list) and with limited funding and resources, we tend to try to maintain those that have most traffic, and see most benefit to the most users.”
Fowler added, “The more users that drive over better surfaces, the higher benefit to the population as a whole.”
Route 120 is the main road from Franklin Village to Route 105, five miles away, with the Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans, another 13 miles away.
Wright explained the problem from the rescue squads’ perspective. “We often have to take the Browns Corner Road and go into Route 105 or out to the interstate in order to relieve the patient of having that additional pain inflicted by bouncing down the road.”
To local people, the Browns Corner Road has become the standard of highway excellence and route of choice even though it’s a roller coaster. It opened for traffic a couple of years ago, though officials had promised it would be built when the town joined the Missisquoi Union High School district in 1970.
“Our selectboard is concerned about the condition of Route 120 and would like to see something done,” selectboard chair Peter Kittell said Tuesday in a phone interview, adding, “We talk to the state every year but nothing gets done.”
Route 120, a state-maintained artery, has several local names: Lake Road on one end that runs by Lake Carmi, Main Street in the village and a mile or so beyond, and from there, the North Sheldon Road that connects to Route 105.
It’s that five-mile stretch that causes such mental anguish to local people and, some say, speeds the deterioration of their vehicles.
“That road is beyond repair and needs to be torn up and completely rebuilt,” Franklin resident Harvey Bushey said in a recent interview. He served as road commissioner here for several months and has been employed in the paving industry for 15 years.
He added, “There are some holes that are six to eight inches deep and the base material is shot. The worst part is from the village to Route 105.”
Last year Bushey circulated a petition calling for the highways resurfacing and sent it to Gov. Jim Douglas with 400 signatures. But no action was taken. In the last several months, some of those potholes have been filled.
Fowler said that portions of the road were minimally treated 16 years ago, in 1992, when about an inch and a quarter of material was “milled off” the surface and then overlaid with an inch and three quarters of conventional bituminous concrete, otherwise known as hot mix asphalt or blacktop.
“For projects meeting VTrans standards, a mile of state route resurfacing (will cost) in the range of $300,000 to $750,000 per mile,” he said, adding “The lower end (of the cost scale) would pertain to . .. simple overlays (two inches plus or minus) of the existing surface as opposed to projects where the existing pavement is pulverized and blended with the soils beneath, compacted and graded, and resurfaced with a deeper four to six inch layer of asphalt concrete structure.”
He noted also that Route 120 is most likely among those 60 percent of roads in Vermont, which are “non-engineered.”
Fowler explained that an engineered road is one whose design is based on its expected service requirements, such as the number of heavy trucks it may carry or its width, whether 28 or 40 feet wide. Its standards specify the thickness of sand, gravel/crushed stone, and asphalt concrete, materials known for their performance under expected wheel loads. Such roads can cost $3.5 to $7 million a mile.
Wright said that the rescue squad would like to see Route 120 taken care of as soon as possible, adding that the section between the end of Browns Corner Road and Interstate 89 (in Swanton) is also fairly bumpy.
“It’s the lesser of two evils at this point. But if we have a call anywhere on the east side of Franklin, we have to go down Route 120 and it’s simply very uncomfortable for the patient,”
Wright noted that alternate routes to taking Route 120, “are about equal. It really depends on the time of day and the traffic. It’s not anything terribly out of the way. It’s less direct.”
She added, “But if we are leaving at rush hour, people leaving town, or coming up through, it’s a little more congested going down Route 78, whereas Route 120 and Route 105 are much larger arteries.”