Saturday, September 3, 2011

BRATTLEBORO - If you're not an emergency responder or a resident of Marlboro, Wilmington or points beyond, stay off Hamilton Road and Ames Hill Road.

That's the message from Steve Barrett, the director of Brattleboro's Department of Public Works.

"Hamilton Road ... we don't want people on it at all," said Barrett.

Even residents west of Brattleboro can't expect a smooth ride on one of the two detours, he said. "They can use them but they can expect waits of 45 minutes or longer," said Barrett. "When we're working up there, everything stops." Brattleboro Police Chief Gene Wrinn said neither his department nor the Vermont State Police have the resources to keep people off the two roads.

He said unnecessary traffic is causing problems for emergency responders, road repair crews and people who need to use them to get back and forth to their homes.

"We do not need, want or desire people to use those roads," said Wrinn.

Those traveling Ames Hill Road also need to realize it is considered a construction zone and fines for speeding in construction zones are doubled.

People driving on Hamilton and Ames Hill roads are not only making it harder for crews to repair them, they are also compromising the integrity of the roads, said Wrinn.

That means people who really need to use the roads might not be able to drive on them, he said. "And the last thing we need is to have an accident on one of those roads," said Wrinn.

On Friday afternoon, at about 2 p.m., the Marlboro and Brattleboro fire departments responded to the Marlboro side of Ames Hill Road for the report of a fully involved car fire.

It shut down the road for about half an hour, according to Brattleboro dispatch. "Traffic was an issue," said Lt. John Lawrence, of the Brattleboro Fire Department. "We had to move everyone to the right side of the road and it did delay things."

There were between 20 and 30 cars on the Brattleboro side of the road, said Lawrence.

That is exactly what emergency responders don't need, said Vermont State Police Sgt. Michael Roj. "We've had several calls for service and that's draining our limited resources," he said.

It's not just Hamilton and Ames Hill roads that are of concern, said Roj.

"The roads are compromised," he said. "Motorists are cautioned to slow down and use greater care."

The state police are escorting supply vehicles to and from Marlboro and Wilmington.

"These roads are not designed for two-way high-volume traffic," said Roj. "High volumes only compromise the traffic that is trying to move through."

The roads could get even worse this weekend because heavy rains are expected, he said.

"The dirt roads we are currently using as detours around some of the significant traffic corridors could become even more compromised," said Roj.

The National Weather Service has issued a weather alert for southern Vermont.

From today through Thursday, scattered thunderstorms are possible.

"Although thunderstorms (on Saturday) may contain locally heavy downpours and gusty winds, the threat for widespread severe thunderstorms is low," according to the NWS.

A slow moving cold front is expected to move into the are late Sunday or early Monday.

"As abundant moisture interacts with this approaching front, thunderstorms will likely contain very heavy rainfall," stated the weather warning. "Given the saturated ground conditioins due to recent extreme rainfall, flash flooding is possible in low lying, poor drainage and urban areas, and in areas adjacent to small streams and creeks."