Shumlin Lays Out Safety Measures for Route 4 Stretch

Sue Minter, deputy secretary of Vermont’s Agency of Transportation, speaks at a news conference yesterday. Gov. Peter Shumlin, right, and (from left) Woodstock Town Manager Phil Swanson, Rep. Alison Clarkson, D-Woodstock, and Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell, D-Quechee, were among the local and state officials who were part of a meeting beforehand. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen)

Sue Minter, deputy secretary of Vermont’s Agency of Transportation, speaks at a news conference yesterday. Gov. Peter Shumlin, right, and (from left) Woodstock Town Manager Phil Swanson, Rep. Alison Clarkson, D-Woodstock, and Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell, D-Quechee, were among the local and state officials who were part of a meeting beforehand. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »

In response to three collisions on Route 4 that have claimed four lives since March, Gov. Peter Shumlin yesterday announced a series of safety measures for the state highway, including an immediate repaving and installation of rumble stripes and long-term plans to rebuild the road and perhaps redesign stretches away from the Ottauquechee River.

The announcement, details of which had emerged in recent weeks, was made after Shumlin and Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell, D-Quechee, met with Hartford police and fire officials and came as a 72-year-old West Lebanon woman remained hospitalized with severe injuries after she was involved in a collision on Route 4 in Quechee on Thursday.

“There’s just too many people dying out there, and we can’t let it continue,” Shumlin said at a news conference at the Hartford police station. “It’s our job to try to figure out solutions and a sensible path. When we lose four people in a short stretch of road, and perhaps a fifth, we’ve got a big challenge.”

While trumpeting plans to help, Shumlin and other officials cautioned that authorities are unsure of the cause behind the collisions — which have occurred within a roughly five mile stretch of the region’s primary east-west thoroughfare — and urged motorists to drive safely.

“We are going to get to work as quickly as we can,” Shumlin said. “We are asking you to (drive) slow, cautiously. Do not text, do not drive distracted. We can’t afford another fatality.”

By the end of July, officials plan to repave and install center line rumble stripes on an approximately three mile portion beginning around Interstate 89 and heading west. However, Woodstock Town Manager Phil Swanson said he expected the project would stretch closer to Route 12, which would add about two more miles.

Vermont Agency of Transportation Deputy Secretary Sue Minter said the exact details were still being determined, and the project would go out to bid next week.

The project will cost about $400,000, officials said, and come from existing state funds. The Vermont AOT had already planned to try and do the work later this year, Minter said, though they were unsure if they would have enough money once they had completed projects that had previously been deemed higher priorities.

“It wasn’t a guarantee,” Minter said in an interview. “Now we are guaranteeing it’s going to happen.”

To do that, the agency will likely have to reshuffle it’s list of priority projects, Campbell said.

Long-term, in projects that are as many as 10 years away, officials said they will use state and federal money to rebuild fully large portions of Route 4, and Minter said they will explore redesigning some of the road, to make it straighter and less prone to flooding.

Shumlin also announced AOT will immediately install portable message boards to urge drivers to drive safely.

Hartford and Woodstock officials have been pushing for rumble stripes in recent weeks, and Shumlin said that Campbell called him urging to act.

Their concern has been sparked by similar tragedies that have unfolded in rapid succession.

In a three-car collision in March, Corey Daniels, 38, of Hartford, and Nina Dimick, 63, of Woodstock died when Daniels’ car crossed the center line near the Fat Hat Factory, struck the rear wheel of a westbound utility vehicle and then collided head-on with Dimick’s vehicle.

In May, Patience Hutt, 40, of Hartland, died when her Subaru collided with an empty horse trailer near the Woodstock/Hartford town line. The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

One week later, Norma Sawyer, 84, of Bridgewater, died in West Woodstock when she collided with a box truck driving in the opposite direction. Police are still investigating that collision.

And Wednesday, 72-year-old Ingrid Neuwirt of West Lebanon was critically injured when she collided with an oncoming vehicle in Quechee.

The other driver, 43-year-old Shirley Adams, of White River Junction, sustained non-life threatening injuries and was conscious at the scene.

Officials yesterday said that Neuwirt remains in intensive care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. A DHMC spokesman said she was not on a list of patients for which they can release information, and her family could not be reached for comment.

In an interview, Hartford Public Safety Director Steve Locke said the road fixes will not be a panacea, and stressed that drivers will have to act more safely.

“The quality of the road may have had nothing to do with some of these,” Locke said. “We’re never going to stop all the fatalities.”

Hartford Deputy Police Chief Leonard Roberts said his officers have been working overtime to manage extra patrols on Route 4, and said they may have to tap into overtime funds.

“We are willing to spend some dough,” Locke said.

Mark Davis can be reached at or 603-727-3304.


Rumble Strips Urged on Route 4

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Woodstock — A pair of fire chiefs have proposed installing centerline rumble strips on sections of Route 4 after three people were killed in head-on collisions on the busy thoroughfare in recent months. Woodstock Fire Chief L.D. Sutherland said he and Hartford Fire Chief Stephen Locke think that rumble strips could prevent drivers from drifting into oncoming traffic on two-lane …

Cars Collide on Route 4: Woman in Critical Condition After Two-Car Collision in Quechee

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Quechee — A West Lebanon woman was in critical condition last night after the car she was driving collided with an oncoming vehicle on Route 4, the latest in a string of serious accidents on the thoroughfare in recent months. Hartford police said 72-year-old Ingrid Neuwirt was traveling east shortly after 9 a.m. yesterday when her 1997 Toyota Camry struck …

Letter: A Modest Measure of Precaution

Saturday, June 1, 2013

To the Editor: In the May 18 Valley News, Rep. Alison Clarkson, D-Woodstock, was reported as stating that no decision should be made about improving conditions for drivers on Route 4 until she has gathered more “data.” May I be so bold as to ask how many more lives will be lost on that dangerous road while she is busy …

Letter: It’s Not the Road’s Fault

Thursday, May 30, 2013

To the Editor: I have been reading letters posted to several local newspapers that attribute the recent tragic accidents on Route 4 to its being a “dangerous” road, a “white knuckle” driving experience, etc. What a crock! If people need rumble strips to alert them that they’re driving in the oncoming lane then their driving skills — or, more to …

Editorial: Route 4 Safety

Monday, May 27, 2013

Even before a recent spate of fatal traffic accidents, anyone who regularly travels Route 4 between Woodstock and Hartford knew that the road was dangerous and seemed to be getting more so. In the wake of four motorists’ deaths since the beginning of March, fire and police chiefs in the two towns are advocating safety improvements that are welcome and …

Letter: The Dangers of Route 4

Thursday, May 16, 2013

To the Editor: Route 4 is a scary road because of the way people drive it. It is very common to see vehicles, when traffic is thin, drifting over the line, especially on curves. Are they distracted? Are they impaired? Are they just bad drivers? Are they thinking it is their private road and they can drift to and fro …

Police Chiefs Back Route 4 Rumble Strips

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hartford — Police in the two towns that have responded to a rash of fatal car accidents along a Vermont state road in recent months are swinging their support behind the installation of centerline “rumble strips” along portions of Route 4. The endorsement comes just as the state prepares to undertake $300,000 of maintenance work on a stretch of the …

Letter: Obvious Problem on Route 4

Friday, May 17, 2013

To the Editor: With all of the recent crashes on Route 4 between Hartford and Woodstock, one has to wonder if the investigators happened to have noticed that in many places the center yellow lines are almost nonexistent, forcing drivers to guess where to drive on this already narrow and winding road. How many more lives will be lost before …

Two Killed in Route 4 Crash in Quechee

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Quechee — A Hartford man and a Woodstock woman died and a teenager was seriously injured yesterday in a head-on collision on a sharp curve on Route 4. Corey Daniels, a 38-year-old father of three , and 63-year-old Nina Dimick were killed in the 9:30 a.m. accident, which forced authorities to close both lanes of Route 4 in Quechee for …

Route 4 Crash Claims Life: Hartland Woman Killed in Collision with Trailer

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hartford — A Hartland woman was killed after her Subaru collided with a horse trailer on a curve on Route 4 yesterday evening, police said, in a grisly wreck that snarled traffic for the evening commute. The woman, identified by police as Patience Hutt, 40, was driving west on Route 4 while an Equine Express horse trailer was heading east, …

Crash Victim ‘Had a Beautiful Smile and Was a Beautiful Soul’

Friday, May 10, 2013

Hartland — Patience Hutt was the second of four children. She loved her animals and her kids, had a naturally cheery disposition and brought light to everyone’s lives. On Thursday, the 40-year-old Hartland woman died after her Subaru collided with a horse trailer on a curve on Route 4 in Quechee. Police yesterday continued efforts to determine how the fatal …

Police Fault Other Driver; Hartford Victim Now Blamed in March 7 Crash That Killed 2

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hartford — Police have now identified a different driver at fault in a Route 4 crash in March that killed two people. In a news release yesterday, police said “extensive examination of the physical evidence by the crash reconstruction team and additional interviews,” led them to conclude that Corey Daniels, 38, of Hartford, had crossed the center line while traveling …

Police: Other Route 4 Wreck Thursday Due to Texting 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Quechee — A 22-year-old South Royalton woman faces two driving citations after crossing the center line and crashing into the guardrails along Route 4 yesterday morning while texting and driving, police said. Authorities said her 9-month-old son was also in the vehicle, a Toyota RAV4, but neither he nor his mother were injured in the single-car accident. Cassandra Storms was …

Another Route 4 Tragedy: Bridgewater Woman, 84, Is Fourth to Die on Road Since March

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Woodstock — A Bridgewater woman died yesterday morning after the sedan she was driving collided with a box truck on Route 4. It was the third fatal accident on that road in Woodstock and Hartford this year. Norma Sawyer, 84, was pronounced dead at the scene . Her death came one day after the fire chiefs of Woodstock and Hartford …

Letter: Solution: Responsible Drivers

Thursday, June 6, 2013

To the Editor: I send my sincere condolences to the families and friends of the four people who have recently lost their lives on Route 4 and hope that this letter doesn’t come across as insensitive. Accounts of the accidents made no mention of vehicular malfunction, which means that either Route 4 was the cause of these accidents, or these …

W. Lebanon Driver Dies After Crash

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lebanon — A West Lebanon woman injured last week in the latest Route 4 car collision has died, after her family spent days in the hospital grappling over what course of action to take because her religion forbade doctors from providing standard care. Ingrid Neuwirt, 72, died late Sunday night at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center after she was removed from life …

Letter: The Problems on Route 4

Monday, June 10, 2013

To the Editor: It’s good that a communitywide discussion of the problems of Route 4 has begun. I’d like to add a few suggestions and observations, some possibly already mentioned: ∎  Repaint the center and fog lines, which are dangerously faded in many places, and fill in the collapsed shoulders. Both of these are serious obstacles to navigation, while repairs …

Letter: Pay Attention, Drivers

Friday, June 7, 2013

To the Editor: As a runner I spend a lot of time as a pedestrian. Over the years I’ve come to one conclusion: We are lousy, inattentive drivers. I’ve seen drivers engaged in lots of secondary activities. They’re on phones, reading the newspaper, eating sandwiches and checking out the scenery — to name just a few. I’m sure we all …

Letter: A Quick Fix for Route 4

Friday, June 7, 2013

To the Editor: As a quick, temporary improvement of Route 4 between White River Junction and Woodstock, has anyone at the Vermont Agency of Transportation thought of simply painting the center and side lines? At the present time, the lines are totally obliterated on all the curves, and almost all the lines anywhere are invisible at night in the rain. …

Letter: How to Stop Texting While Driving

Monday, June 3, 2013

To the Editor: I think we are barking up the wrong tree when we expect our young drivers to put away their phones when driving. It is difficult for those of my generation to understand, but these devices are like additional body parts to the younger generations, and they will not stop using them. The simple solution, which I have …

Letter: A Big Improvement on Route 4

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

To the Editor: I agree wholeheartedly with Eric Sailer, of Lyme Center, who suggested repainting the lines on Route 4 in light of recent fatalities (“A Quick Fix for Route 4,” June 18). In fact, I was distinctly uncomfortable driving on this road and finding the center lines nonexistent. On June 6, I wrote to the governor and to the …

Letter: Impractical Advice for Route 4

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

To the Editor: A recent letter stated that a center-line rumble strip on Route 4 is a silly idea. All that’s needed, the writer declared, is for everyone to be a good driver (like him). His solution brings two aphorisms to mind. ∎  It takes two to tango. ∎  Every problem has a simple solution, and it is always wrong. …

Police Report Faults Enfield Man in Fatal Woodstock Accident

Monday, June 24, 2013

Woodstock — An Enfield man is scheduled to appear in court next month to answer to a charge of negligent operation of a motor vehicle in a Route 4 head-on collision that killed a Bridgewater woman last month.  An investigation by the Woodstock Police Department and the Vermont State Police Crash Reconstruction Team determined that a box truck driven by Timothy …

Letter: What’s Changed on Route 4

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

To the Editor: I’ve seen many suggestions for how to fix the problems on Route 4. I have been driving this road for close to 31 years. The road really hasn’t changed much in that time. It’s been paved two or three times. Painted also. The speed limit has been reduced in several places. But it is still the same …

Distracted Drivers Cause a Third of Route 4 Crashes, Data Shows

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hartford — From texting behind the wheel to turning around to talk to passengers — and many more distractions in between — officials say a wavering focus has contributed to more than a third of injury-related crashes on Route 4 from Bridgewater to Hartford in the past five years. “Distracted driving/inattention” was cited in 35 percent of those collisions, according …

Letter: People Need to Slow Down

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

To the Editor: We are still smarting from our experience on July 4. We were headed through Woodstock to Plymouth, Vt., for a celebration at the Coolidge home. There were some cars coming toward us on a good stretch of road that was a straightaway when a mobile home trailer with a car hitched in the back, pulled out from …

Man Charged in Route 4 Fatality; Police Say Driver Was on Wrong Side

Monday, July 29, 2013

White River Junction — An Enfield man who was behind the wheel during a head-on collision on Route 4 that killed the other driver was “completely in the wrong lane,” according to police. At his arraignment Tuesday in Windsor Superior Court, Timothy Farewell, 47, pleaded not guilty to a charge of negligent operation of a motor vehicle in the crash …