Nearly five months after the Colchester Selectboard agreed to begin the process of discontinuing Munson Road, its decision to privatize the road will take effect Monday.
The 700-foot-long gravel road that served as a shortcut for motorists trying to avoid traffic at the intersection of Bay Road and Route 7 will no longer be accessible to the public.
Instead, it will be used only as private driveway for the road’s residents.
As part of an arrangement with town administration, the Munson Road property owner agreed to assume all maintenance responsibility for the road including snow removal, grading, dust control and lighting.
For the town, that means saving money.
“The owners of the Munson Road property have shown a willingness to take over the responsibility of the roadway,” town manager Dawn Francis said. “So, that means we cut down on our expense of maintaining it.”
Upkeep for gravel and dirt roads also tends to be more costly for taxpayers.
“Independent of capital costs, [gravel roads] cost just about twice as much to maintain as a paved road,” public works director Bryan Osborne said.
Aside from scaling back the town’s costs, safety issues were also addressed. When the request for discontinuance was submitted, the property owner on Munson Road cited high-speed traffic as a concern.
As part of the request review process, selectboard members and other town officials spent around 30 minutes on Munson Road in late September.
“We witnessed about 20-plus cars that had cut through using that rural gravel road, and they were traveling at high speeds,” Francis said.
Despite the road’s frequent use, Osborne and Francis said they have not received any complaints or backlash from the public regarding the closing.
Plans for a much larger construction project currently being bid out by the Vermont Agency of Transportation that will involve the Bay Road and Route 7 intersection may have eased tensions over Munson Road’s discontinuance, Osborne said.
“At the Bay Road intersection, there will be a full traffic signal put there that will significantly relieve congestion,” Osborne said. “So there’s really no ongoing need for people to be able to get around this intersection.”
The project is scheduled to begin in the spring.
The Munson Road property owner has also agreed to a handful of easements, one of which gives emergency vehicles and motorists temporary bypass if requested by Colchester Center Fire Chief Michael Chmielewski should an accident block the intersection.
“From a police perspective, the only impact is we’ve used Munson Road to divert traffic,” police Chief Jennifer Morrison said. “But that’s an every three or four year impact.”
Neither Osborne nor Morrison expects a problem with drivers trespassing on the road after privatization, and Morrison said the police department has no plans to monitor the area differently.
“There has been a lot of advanced notification and education for purposes of avoiding that issue,” Osborne said.
A gate where Munson and Bay Roads intersect will also be closed to deter drivers.
Additional easements grant the town unimpeded access to sewer lines that run beneath the property and require any private utility easements for private utilities be granted in new agreements not involving the town.
Aside from general maintenance, Francis said the town might need to access to the sewer under Munson Road if lines need to be replaced, “but that’s a long ways away,” she added.