CHESTERFIELD, N.H. -- For much of Friday, traffic was backed up in both directions along Route 9, starting at the Navy Seabees Bridge in the eastbound lane and near the Chesterfield Inn in the westbound lane.
The delay, due to paving along about a two-mile stretch of road, added 20 minutes and more to the commute between Keene and Brattleboro, and left many drivers sitting in their cars plenty of time to wonder why what appears to be a perfectly good road was getting a new topcoat of pavement.
Jeff Brillhart, the assistant commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation said that question arises a lot.
"There is a problem with the way people view road construction," he said. "It's important that people understand it."
Because Route 9 is an important road for the state, especially as a link between Brattleboro and Keene, he said, it's important to keep it in tip-top shape.
"The idea is to try to maintain good quality roads over time and not let them deteriorate to the point they need to be rebuilt," said Brillhart.
The work being done on Friday is an example of a road surface that may appear to be in perfectly good condition, but is in danger of coming apart.
Normally, DOT would schedule a road such as Route 9 for repaving every 10 years, said Brillhart. Unfortunately, he said, due to budget constraints, repaving Route 9 is not on the radar at this time.
Though he didn't have the
"That's versus $1 million per mile for rebuilding a road," said Brillhart.
This is the only portion of Route 9 between the two cities that is scheduled for the top coat this year, he said.
Democratic Rep. Samuel Hawkes, of Cheshire District 3 in Keene, said he doesn't think the work needed to be done, especially considering the status of the state's infrastructure at this time.
"Why are we paving a road that's in pretty good shape?" he said. "It seems to be the magic of government. "A lot that doesn't need to be done is done while there's a lot that needs to be done that's not."
Hawkes, who is not running for re-election because he's been asked to be chairman of the state's Democratic Committee, said making sausage is clean and sanitary compared to the legislative process.
"The wrong things are getting done," he said.
A spokesman in the state's budget office said the work wasn't a case of "use the money or lose it."
"Money that's unspent lapses back into the fund it came from," he said. "In this case, the highway fund. It would be unusual for them to spend money for fear of losing it."
Alfred "Gus" Lerandeau, a Democrat who represents Swanzey has been in the paving business for a long time.
He said the state has a pavement maintenance program that evaluates and recommends which portions of roads should get work done each year. He described the work on Route 9 as preventative maintenance.
"If you take a decent road that's almost ready for an overlay, you can buy another five years," he said. "You want to keep a good road good."
The work done on Friday is called micro-surfacing, said Lerandeau.
He also said that you won't see the state laying down pavement on many of the state's bad roads.
"When they're bad, they're bad," he said. "It's like putting lipstick on a corpse."
Bob Audette can be reached at email@example.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.