Saint-Gaudens Road Plan Revised

Valley News Correspondent
Monday, November 06, 2017

Cornish — Reconstruction of the access road to Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is scheduled for next spring and the revised plans from State Department of Transportation significantly reduce the number of trees that could be removed.

A little more than a year ago, the DOT’s plan sparked considerable controversy with the proposed removal of 14 trees, including several towering white pines.

The project, which will be put out to bid later this month, propose the possibility of the removal of two smaller trees — a sugar maple 13 inches in diameter and basswood, 11 inches in diameter.

“We heard the trees were important to everyone,” DOT project director Ronald Grandmaison said Friday. “We certainly are not going to shove anything down anyone’s throat.”

Work on Saint-Gaudens Road will include about 3,700 feet from Route 12A to the park entrance. Saving the trees means they won’t be digging as far down as indicated on last year’s plans, Grandmaison said.

The existing pavement will be removed, the road will be graded and new pavement about four inches thick will be laid down.

Additionally, the number of drainage crossings has been lowered to three from seven. A new guardrail is also being installed.

The DOT’s web site explains that there will be improvements to the “subsurface structure” of the road “other miscellaneous activities.”

Grandmaison said the DOT is hoping to award the contract in February, once approvals are received from the governor’s executive council, and have the contractor on site as soon as the weather allows.

“We hope to have all major work done by Memorial Day when the park opens,” Grandmaison said.

In the event the road cannot be opened, the DOT has set up a detour route off Route 12A using Town House and Dingleton Hill roads to enter Saint-Gaudens Road from the opposite end. The detour is just less than seven miles with an estimated travel time of 15 minutes.

Grandmaison said the road is state owned but because it connects to a federally-owned property — the historic site — a federal grant of about $550,000 will pay for the project. No town money is being appropriated.

Selectboard Chairman John Hammond complimented the DOT on its response following last year’s public hearing when quite a few residents said they were concerned about how the work would affect the tall pines. It appears the DOT has taken those comments under consideration, Hammond said.

“They have been pretty conscience of that. I think they have paid attention to what the public was saying.”

No other public hearings have been held but the DOT has been in communication with town officials.

The guardrail — currently thick wire cable strung between short posts — will be steel, similar to what is on 12A, Grandmaison said.

The public comment period for the project is still open, Saint-Gaudens Deputy Superintendent Christina Marts said on Friday.