VTrans tackles dangerous roadside ledges - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

VTrans tackles dangerous roadside ledges

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Call it an extreme makeover for Montpelier's Exit 8. Work crews, some of them specially trained in rock climbing from Colorado, are shaving back the once steep-sided and unstable ledges, removing upward of 20,000 cubic yards of rock.

"Many areas-- like behind me is really just a cleaning operation. So, we come through, we pull off all the vegetation, we clean off the loose rock and we're done," said Ken Robie, a project manager for VTrans.

Letters to the local paper have questioned the need for such extensive work. VTrans says the bottom line for this $1.5 million project and others across the state is safety.

"This is an area of frequent rock falls and several in the last five years have been large enough to reach the roadway, which is a significant concern from a safety standpoint, especially in a high-traffic area like this," Robie said.

The ledges-- geologically speaking-- are part of the Moretown Formation, metamorphic rocks composed of phyllite, schist and granofel that are prone to breaking off in slabs.

"The rock has a natural foliation to it and that's what's causing these large overhanging blocks that you see in back of me," said Tom Eliassen, a geologist with VTrans. "That foliation lends itself to being susceptible to degradation from water getting in there and freezing and thawing, breaking off large slabs."

Across the state, VTrans engineers have ranked nearly 3,600 ledges along roadways. About 125 of them fit into the Class "A" hazard like Montpelier.

"It's something we steadily work at. We do two or three of these kind of projects a year across the state dealing with the highest risk ledges that see the highest risk for rock fall," Robie said.

Upward of 13,000 cars a day use the Montpelier exits. Traffic on the busy northbound ramp will continue to be detoured to Middlesex for the time being. The project is expected to wrap up by the end of November.

Route 30 in Townshend-- another spot with steep, crumbling ledges-- is next on VTran's hit list.

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