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.
Sunday, December 8 2013 2:00 PM EST2013-12-08 19:00:23 GMT
A Connecticut man is charged with DUI after police say he admitted to overdosing on prescribed Ritalin when he was pulled over. The incident happened on Route 105 in Berkshire late Friday afternoon. AuthoritiesMore >>
A Connecticut man is charged with DUI after police say he admitted to overdosing on prescribed Ritalin when he was pulled over.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 1:42 PM EST2013-12-08 18:42:20 GMT
Police in New Hampshire are investigating an accident on Interstate 89 that claimed two lives. It happened on the northbound lane between Exit#18 and Exit#19 in Lebanon. The initial investigation revealedMore >>
It happened on the northbound lane between Exit#18 and Exit#19 in Lebanon, N.H. Saturday.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 1:30 PM EST2013-12-08 18:30:52 GMT
Police say a couple tried to use a baby to smuggle drugs into jail. Police say the baby arrived the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, with 27-year-old David Willette of Bennington, for a scheduledMore >>
Police say a couple tried to use a baby to smuggle drugs into jail.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 1:25 PM EST2013-12-08 18:25:45 GMT
A 28-year-old Coventry man is dead after a crash Saturday night in Irasburg. Police say at about 8:40 p.m. Gerald Begin rolled his car on Route 5 and was thrown out of the vehicle. He was taken toMore >>
A 28-year-old Coventry man is dead after a crash Saturday night in Irasburg.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 1:21 PM EST2013-12-08 18:21:13 GMT
Talks next week in New York will try to determine how new state land in the central Adirondacks can be used. The Adirondack Park Agency is considering recommendations for the land in the towns of IndianMore >>
Talks next week in New York will try to determine how new state land in the central Adirondacks can be used.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 1:18 PM EST2013-12-08 18:18:31 GMT
Competition could be fierce for new casino licenses in upstate New York. The licenses will be awarded next year after voters passed an amendment allowing Vegas-style casinos outside Indian land. FourMore >>
Competition could be fierce for new casino licenses in upstate New York.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 1:13 PM EST2013-12-08 18:13:03 GMT
If you're lucky, you may have seen a snowy owl in Vermont. Researchers say the birds are traveling even farther south than usual -- some even as far south as North Carolina. We spotted one Friday afternoonMore >>
Researchers say snowy owls are traveling even farther south than usual, and that means more sightings here in Vermont.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 1:12 PM EST2013-12-08 18:12:07 GMT
The sun is completing a "solar flip," and that means many people could have the best chance in a decade of seeing the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. NASA says every 11 years the sun's polar magneticMore >>
We check in on some of the week's big science stories, including why the Northern Lights may be more visible soon.More >>