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Mild mud season went easy on gravel roads

DPW to end its gravel roads report for the year

BRATTLEBORO—The Department of Public Works will post its final gravel roads report on Monday, March 28.

Compared with previous years, this mud season was kind to the town's gravel roads, said Water & Highway Superintendent Hannah O'Connell. She called the change “great and refreshing.”

O'Connell said the mild winter meant less frost buildup in the roads.

Mud season usually follows sugaring season, she said, when warm days and cold nights thaw and harden the frost in the roads.

The DPW posts its gravel-roads condition report to the town website every mud season.

The reports list the conditions for some of the more heavily traveled gravel roads in town.

This year, the department listed the roads it tracks as in good condition. A sampling of the monitored roads include Rice Farm Road, Kipling Road, East Orchard Street, Wickopee Hill Road, Sunset Lake Road, Bonnyvale Road, and Ames Hill.

DPW staff updates the report almost daily during mud season.

Condition statuses range from “good” to “closed.” A “good” gravel road means passenger cars can travel it with caution and risk little impact to vehicles. Emergency services should be able to travel the road with little impact to response times.

“Fair” means drivers should expect “heavy rutting, washboards, and substantial mud.” The road’s condition could damage passenger cars with low clearance. Preferably only local traffic would use the road. Emergency response times will be longer.

When a road reaches the “poor” stage, DPW recommends only vehicles with high clearance and four-wheel drive attempt to travel the road. Emergency services may face difficulties on these roads: “Expect heavy rutting, slimy and slippery conditions, and deep mud,” DPW staff write. “Traffic should be for local residents only.”

“Closed,” means, you guessed it, the road is closed to through traffic.

During a typical mud season, O'Connell said the department will receive calls from stuck motorists. People also call to report damage to vehicles.

No such calls came in this season, she said.

O'Connell said that this year, the department closed only two roads: Gibson and Rice Farm. No houses were located on these sections of roads.

As of March 28, all the monitored roads were listed as being in “good” condition.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #350 (Wednesday, March 30, 2016). This story appeared on page C1.

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