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March 05. 2013 11:18PM

North Country spring brings bumpy ride

EATON - Route 153 down through the quaint White Mountain town of Eaton was a little bit bumpy this past Sunday, but no more than usual for the waning days of winter.

Back to normal, too, are the seasonal road postings, which typically take place in the first two weeks in March. Conway's Public Works Department recently announced town roads will be posted on Friday, with passage of vehicles exceeding a gross weight of 10 tons prohibited until further notice.

Roads around the region were posted for weight limits as early as late February last year, after a lack of snow and record-breaking high temperatures warmed the pavement - and the ground beneath that pavement, ahead of schedule.

In 2012, Conway posted its roads on Feb. 24, with the state Department of Transportation posting some of its highways in District 3 on Feb. 27.

Bill Boynton, New Hampshire Department of Transportation spokesman, said Tuesday that this year's timing for weight limits is on par with other years.

In the southern Mount Washington Valley town of Freedom, travel of vehicles over six tons is restricted on all roads in town, with the exception of the Ossipee Lake Road from International Paper's entrance to the Madison town line.

On Thursday, all Tamworth roads will be posted to a six-ton limit. Franconia has not posted its roads yet, and Madison is waiting until March 15.

Weight limits can help protect pavement when the ground beneath is going through that squishy stage of instability that comes as the seasonal thaw sets in, and the ice melts, leaving empty space. When pavement is in that stage, it is vulnerable to damage, because it lacks a solid surface to hold it up.

In 2012, the squishy stage was short-lived, due to a mild winter and dry spring. But town and state officials were faced with another problem: the leafless trees of March and April allowed the spring sun to beat down on the forest duff, drying it out and making it vulnerable to wildfires.

There are exemptions to the weight limits. Fuel delivery trucks are still allowed on the roads, as are trucks carrying processed milk products.

syoungknox@newstote.com

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