The Dummerston covered bridge (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer file photo)
The Dummerston covered bridge (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer file photo)
Friday December 28, 2012

DUMMERSTON -- For southbound drivers on Route 30, attempting to turn left onto Dummerston's covered bridge can lead to a few anxious moments.

"You've got one eye on the rearview mirror," said Lew Sorenson, one of the town's two representatives on the Windham Regional Commission.

The obvious danger in mixing stopped cars and fast-moving traffic on the two-lane road led Dummerston's Selectboard, at Sorenson's suggestion, to endorse creation of a turning lane at the bridge intersection.

At a Wednesday meeting, the board also voted to support creation of additional turning space -- though there is not likely room for a full, additional lane -- at Route 30 and the Green Iron Bridge.

"I think it's a good idea," Selectboard member Tom Bodett said.

It is not clear whether either improvement will be undertaken by the state Agency of Transportation. But in anticipation of upcoming VTrans paving work on Route 30, Sorenson pointed out in a memo to Selectboard members that "it would be timely to make Dummerston concerns known."

There have been long-standing concerns about the intersection of Route 30 and East-West Road, which serves as the entrance to the town's historic covered bridge.

Northbound Route 30 drivers can pull onto the shoulder if they have to wait for a line of cars to clear the single-land covered bridge. But any delays mean southbound drivers who want to turn left onto the bridge must wait on Route 30.


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That can be an issue, given that the speed limit on Route 30 is 50 mph and the average daily traffic count -- according to a 2008 VTrans report -- is 7,000 vehicles.

That same analysis concluded that, during peak traffic flow in both the morning and afternoon, a left-turn lane is warranted at the intersection.

VTrans also reported five crashes at the intersection between 2000 and 2007. While that may seem like a relatively low number, officials are concerned about the potential for more.

And Sorenson believes there is enough room within the Route 30 right of way to add a turn lane in that area.

"In a way, it's sort of a no-brainer in terms of what the hazard is and what the solution is," Sorenson said.

The Selectboard agreed, voting to send letters of support to VTrans and to Windham Regional Commission.

"I think left-turn lanes are always a good idea," Selectboard member Bill Holiday said.

But Holiday also wondered whether there is sufficient room to improve conditions at the single-lane Green Iron Bridge farther south on Route 30.

In that area, northbound Route 30 traffic is the main concern: One resident earlier this year wrote to the Selectboard to ask whether vehicles waiting to turn onto the bridge are "an accident waiting to happen."

The situation was exacerbated last summer by a renovation project that temporarily closed the covered bridge and forced more traffic onto the Green Iron Bridge.

In an attempt to provide a long-term solution, Sorenson is pitching creation of a "narrow right-turn shoulder" at the intersection.

"It would provide enough shoulder on that side so that the person doesn't have to be waiting in the travel lane," Sorenson said.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.