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Johnson Road work to begin this week

FALLS VILLAGE — The long-awaited Johnson Road repaving and redesigning project is scheduled to begin this week.

At Monday’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting, First Selectman Pat Mechare said the project, which was first slated to begin in 2005, was to begin construction on Tuesday.

"It should be a four- to six-week project — hopefully closer to four," Mechare said.

The town has temporarily hired Roger Kane of Cornwall to supervise the project and coordinate between the contractor and the state Department of Transportation. Passersby may have noticed pink and orange markings on the road, especially near its intersection with Route 7.

Town officials had planned to repave portions of Johnson Road and realign its intersection with Route 7 two years ago, but the state demanded additional surveys that took several months to complete. In addition, Pat Hackett, the engineer assigned to the task, was involved with several other projects and was not able to devote sufficient attention to Johnson Road.

The street has prompted a number of complaints over the years from nearby residents. Johnson Road is often used as a shortcut from Route 7 to Route 126. Truckers use it frequently, even though it’s supposed to be off-limits to oversize vehicles. Other vehicles routinely exceed the posted speed limit, according to residents.

Plans call for a new T-shaped entrance to the road from Route 7. Mechare said this may make it more difficult for truckers to enter the road from Route 7 northbound, discouraging them from turning onto the shortcut to nearby Route 126.

The new entrance will be engineered like the one at the intersection of North Elm Street and Route 7 in Canaan, near the Snack Shack.

The reconfigured intersection will also provide better sightlines for Johnson Road motorists making a left turn onto Route 7 south. Currently, the V-shaped intersection has blind spots.

The narrow, steep, tree-lined road is slated for improved drainage that should alleviate chronic winter iciness. In addition, more than 4,000 feet of Johnson Road from Route 7 to Beebe Hill will be repaved and new guardrails will be installed.

Mechare said the section of Johnson Road slated for repaving will be reclaimed, meaning the layers of old pavement will be removed down to the stone base. Since the road has been repaved so many times over the years, its level has risen considerably, so Hackett recommended the reclamation, according to Mechare, herself a Johnson Road resident.

The first bid received two years ago was for about $295,000, with the town covering $87,000. The bulk of the project is to be paid for with a feeder road grant from the state Department of Transportation. But the total cost of the project is now expected to exceed $361,000, bringing the town’s share up to $107,000.

"The price of oil has skyrocketed since then," Mechare explained earlier this year.

The town will make up the difference from a capital improvement fund in its public works department budget. But now about $20,000 more will have to be appropriated from that fund to cover the rise in the town’s share.

In March, Finance Board members questioned Mechare about the increase but appeared supportive of the selectmen’s need for the additional spending.

The feeder road grant is administered by the Northwestern Connecticut Council of Governments, an organization made up of the first selectmen from nine Northwest Corner towns.

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