By Curt Peterson
Monday, June 12, will go down in Hartland history as a momentous occasion, as Nott’s Excavating, winner of the project bid, started unloading a considerable armada of heavy equipment for reconfiguring the intersection of Quechee Road and state Routes 5 and 12. It took a decade to get to this point. The project is scheduled for completion by this September.
Hartland Three Corners, everyone agrees, will never be quite the same once actual digging begins near Mike’s Store on 5/12 North. A controversial project from its beginning, some residents are still unsure how it ever happened, what it’s all about, and how the finished project will appear and function.
As recently as Tuesday, June 13, one listserv poster thought reconfiguration meant a rotary, something that has never been considered.
Rita Seto, senior planner at Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission (TRORC), presented “A Project History” at the June 5 selectboard meeting, which was meant to dispel misinformation and conspiracy theories surrounding the project. Unfortunately, the informational meeting was sparsely attended.
The project has always been about safety, of course, with considerations for cost and aesthetics. Strong opinions, both pro and con, are rooted in one or more of these issues.
TRORC has been instrumental in making the project a reality, assisting grant capturing, arranging scoping studies and overseeing progress, while town selectmen have come and gone. Not one of the current selectmen was also serving in 2013 when the project was an idea, and VTrans awarded Hartland a Transportation Enhancement scoping grant.
A study researched what changes at the intersection would best enhance bicycle and pedestrian safety. A four-way configuration was deemed best.
A frequently cited near-tragic incident involving a toddler crossing the intersection and a large truck barreling around the blind curve on Route 5 brings chills. However, VTrans records show there has never been a recorded major accident at the site.
In 2015 the Select Board engaged engineering firm VHB to design the new configuration, resulting in an estimated construction cost of a little more than $500,000 using town funds.
In 2017 the state committed almost $100,000 to pave a portion of Quechee Road as part of the project.
Two years later a bike ped grant for $269,600 was awarded for funding sidewalk enhancement as part of the design.
The Select Board decided in 2020 to begin construction work 2021. An additional $125,000 grant was received to cover unanticipated additional costs for sidewalk construction. Also that year, Hartland voters approved the intersection design, including burial of utilities for aesthetic reasons, and authorized a bond for $1,062,000. The bond proceeds were in addition to grants received for the project.
But 2021 found stakeholders, including TRORC, struggling to coordinate five utilities regarding general construction and specifically, burying the utility lines.
Selectmen solicited bids for the project in 2022 at an state-produced estimated cost of $929,433, but there was only one bid — for $1,497,530 — which was rejected.
An independent cost estimate was arranged.
In 2023, the projected cost for the reconfiguration is $1,248,853. Nott’s Excavating was awarded the contract at about $35,000 over the estimate.
Besides the cited poster’s confusion about the traffic pattern, the listserv is peppered with suggestions for renaming the village center. One example: “Hartland’s Folly.”
Old Home Day fans need not worry — the intersection will be wide open for the parade and the crowds, according to the Select Board.===