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State To Improve Route 4, Following Fatal Accidents

VPR/Charlotte Albright

Motorists Beware. Route 4, between Interstate 89 and Woodstock,  has seen three serious collisions over the past few months, claiming four lives.

Upper Valley residents say the road  is becoming more dangerous as drivers fail to pay attention to its sharp  curves and narrow lanes.

The latest victim of a Route 4 head-on collision was 72-year-old Ingrid Neuwirt. Police believe her car crossed the center line of the highway near the Interstate ramp, but they are still trying to figure out why.

Neuwirt’s son, George, is still in mourning, but hoping that his mother’s death will  bring public attention to the dangers of the road—and the drivers who use it.

“Too bad that it’s hit home like this, but I hope that there’s going to be some change either personally or with roads that will lead to other people having more of a chance,” Neuwirt said.

That hope is shared at the Mobil station with big windows on an accident-prone section of the roadway. Workers there welcome the news that the state is going to make improvements to the road, but owner Cheryl Trainer also wants drivers to be more cautious.

Trainer drives that road every day, and sees people crossing the center line frequently.

“I’ve seen people reading the newspaper driving on this road, I’ve seen people texting—well, people are generally talking on their phones,” Trainer said.

To improve safety on Route 4, the state has plans for re-paving it and installing rumble strips. Deputy Transportation Secretary Sue Minter says Route 4 has been on the department radar for a long time. In the past five years, she says, there have been 745 accidents on that stretch of highway.

“And although we’ve had a recent spate of crashes there it isn’t necessarily outstanding in terms of crashes but we are very, very concerned,” Minter said.

Minter said center-line  rumble strips will be installed this summer, and the road will be re-paved. The long term plan is to shore up the shoulders, widen the narrow sections, straighten some curves, and perhaps build a bike path.

All that will cost millions of dollars and could take more than a decade to complete.

Back at the Mobil station, owner Cheryl Trainer said she’s glad to see the new 6-cent gas tax go toward improvements like those planned for Route 4, since her customers are complaining about both the road, and the tax.

Charlotte Albright lives in Lyndonville and currently works in the Office of Communication at Dartmouth College. She was a VPR reporter from 2012 - 2015, covering the Upper Valley and the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that she freelanced for VPR for several years.
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