Kathy Wilder has been selling Vermont gifts to out-of-state visitors at Haymaker Card and Gift Gallery for more than a decade. And as the years go by, she's watched a problem outside the Morrisville shop get worse.
"We have extremely heavy traffic during school time, noontime and around 4 to 6. Heavy, heavy traffic," she said.
But relief is in sight. In July, a construction crew broke ground on a bypass project that's been brewing since the 1970s.
"It's very rare. It's hard to get a new road built in Vermont," said Bob Suckert of the Vt. Transportation Agency.
A Lydonville-based construction company, Winterset, won the $7.9 million state contract for phase one of the two-part project. Gordy Eastman's team will build a bypass from the Bishop Marshall School off Route 100 to Bridge Street in Morristown. The new road must span the Lamoille Lake, so the crew has designed a 575-foot bridge-- five times longer than what's typical in Vermont.
"So this is a fairly substantial structure. It's a good looking structure, too," Eastman said.
It's called a slant-leg bridge. The supports are on both banks rather than piers in the middle, minimizing the environmental impacts on the waterway.
"We'll work our concrete crews through the winter," Eastman said. "And then be able to set steel in the spring and have an early deck pour and be completed by next fall."
Which means 30 Vermont workers will keep their jobs for another year. Bids for phase two will start this winter, completing the last mile of roadway from Bridge Street to Route 15.
The goal is to get drivers from Route 100 to Route 15 without having to go through Morrisville's congested downtown, but area retailers have mixed reviews about what that will mean for business.
"I think it will make it a whole lot easier for trucks not to come through and clog the traffic," Wilder said. "Other than that, I don't think it will affect us negatively at all."
Hismarian Fitzgerald doesn't worry about keeping her regulars at her salon, Hismarian's Natural Health and Beauty Spa, but she is nervous about how the new road could impact business growth.
"It's trying to get the new tourists or the new person that's just come into town that will be challenging," Fitzgerald said.
The business community is banding together, referring to the new road as a trucking route alternative, rather than a bypass, hoping tourists won't forget about the tiny town.
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