Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.  

A crew from Renaud Construction, in Vernon, Vt., prepares River Road South, in Putney, Vt., on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, to be paved on Wednesday. The hope is to have the road open by Thursday. The road has been closed after a section of the road was washed out during a storm on July 29.

PUTNEY — Putney’s River Road South, which was one of the most heavily damaged roads in Southern Vermont after last July’s torrential rains, is set to reopen.

The road’s deep washout has forced residents in the area to take detours since the July 29 storms, which hit Windham and Bennington counties the hardest, dumping in excess of five inches of rain in three hours.

20210802-GOV-SUSAN-17.jpg

Vermont Sen. Becca Balint, D-Windham, looks over the edge at  River Road South, in Putney, on Aug. 2, 2021.

Putney Town Manager Karen Astley said Monday that the project, which is costing about $345,000, is nearing completion, and she deferred the latest update to Mike Renaud, the contractor in charge of the project.

Renaud said Monday that the road should reopen Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, at the earliest, but a lot depended on whether guardrails would be installed by then.

Paving is slated for Wednesday, Renaud said.

Renaud of Renaud Construction of Vernon said that his crew had been working on the washout for the past month, and installed a new concrete box culvert, 105 feet long and measuring 8 feet by 16 feet. He said the construction was a challenge because crews ran into what he called “blue clay” at the bottom of the 30-foot excavation.

Renaud said he expected paving would take place on Wednesday, and that construction was wrapping up. He noted the job was still missing its guardrails, but he said he hoped the guardrail subcontractor would be on the job on Tuesday.

The road will be reopened Thursday, he said, “at the earliest.”

Support our journalism. Subscribe today. →

Astley said the River Road project was the most expensive of all the repairs that Putney had to undertake after the July 29 storm. She said there was about $1 million in damage, the same amount Putney usually spends annually on its roads.

The River Road South project qualified for hefty federal and state funding, Astley said, leaving Putney residents to pay 7.5 percent of the $345,000 project. She said FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) paid 75 percent of the repair costs, while 17.5 percent, came from the state’s emergency relief funds, leaving the 7.5 percent balance.

She said that while the best total estimate of damage was $1 million (equal to the annual highway budget) a final accounting was not complete. She said the town highway crew had been doing a lot of the repairs, but that the River Road South repair contract went to Renaud. FEMA had deemed the project a “major” project, she said.

She said the town so far had $175,000 in direct expenses related to road repairs.

Astley said she had given the Putney Select Board an update on the repair project last week, based on up-to-date information from Highway Foreman Brian Harlow, who is off until Nov. 29.

She said she and Putney Fire Chief Tom Goddard, who is also the town’s emergency management chief, had met with federal and state officials last week to go over the various projects and funding.

Other than River Road South, Astley said the other Putney roads that were damaged during the storm have been repaired. Cemetery Road has a temporary culvert, she said, but will get a larger culvert in the spring.

“It’s hard to get materials right now,” she said, referring to culverts and the guardrails for the River Road South project.

Gov. Phil Scott visited the dramatic River Road washout a few days after the storm, and accurately predicted it would likely take months to repair the damage.

Other communities also tallied hefty repair bills, including Rockingham and Westminster, which was also on the governor’s tour back in early August. The governor asked for President Joseph Biden to declare a disaster for those communities, which came through several months ago.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com.