BRATTLEBORO -- Agency of Transportation officials will be in Brattleboro this week for a public hearing on a major reconstruction project for Putney Road.
The hearing is scheduled for Thursday, March 7, at 6 p.m. in the Selectboard Meeting Room.
The massive project, which probably will not be started for at least seven years, will completely transform Putney Road from the Veterans Bridge to the Exit 3 roundabout, and includes adding a median down the length of the roadway as well removing all traffic lights and adding four new roundabouts along the corridor.
Thursday's meeting is the Section 502 Public Hearing, which the state requires for all transportation projects, and gives abutters, and all interested parties a chance to weigh in on the projects early on in the planning process.
"This is a significant project," said project manager Ken Upmal. "We've done bigger ones, but any time you approach $10 million it is a big project. It is a large, complex project."
The Agency of Transportation wants to completely reconstruct Route 5 from the Veterans Bridge to the Exit 3 roundabout.
The 10 acre, estimated $16 million project will take between six to nine years to develop the plans.
The 1.25 mile project will have to go through the Act 250 process.
According to Upmal, the Putney Road reconstruction would be one of the largest highway projects in the state.
He said he does not know of another roadway in Vermont that would have four roundabouts within a mile-and-a-quarter of road.
The 502 hearing, which is required by state law, is one of the first chances for the public to comment on a project, though Upmal said it will be a long time before the first shovel is put in the ground, and there will be many opportunities to weigh in on the project before construction begins.
Along with all of the complicated engineering that goes into a project of this size, Upmal said a large number of rights-of-way will be needed, and the hearing Thursday is a chance for those property owners to look over the plans and ask questions about how they will affect their access to Putney Road.
Construction probably will not start for at least seven years.
The plans to reconstruct Putney Road have been discussed for a few years now and Upmal said Tropical Storm Irene kept the Agency of Transportation busy over the past year-and-a-half.
The state first began discussing the project about two years ago and the Agency of Transportation worked with the town on its Putney Road Master Plan.
The Selectboard approved the project in 2011.
Upmal said he held a meeting with town officials recently to see if there was still support for the project and the Planning Department and Public Works Department both said the town was ready to move ahead with the plan.
"It is going to be a long process from here out, and there will be many steps," Upmal said. "It's a big dance and once it starts, you don't stop."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.