Big dollars target roads and bridges
By JOSH O’GORMAN
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU | June 03,2014
The largest transportation budget in the state’s history will fund paving and bridge repair, as well as improvements for air and rail travel.
Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a $685.7 million transportation budget for the upcoming fiscal year Monday morning, with goals to pave nearly 400 miles of road and repair or replace more than 100 bridges.
“This budget makes sound investments in our infrastructure that will grow Vermont’s economy not only by directly creating jobs in the construction industry, but also by supporting other important economic sectors, such as tourism, agriculture, hospitality, manufacturing, among others,” Shumlin said.
The budget represents an increase of 5 percent, or $32 million, compared to the FY 2014 budget of $653 million, and will fund more than 800 projects around the state.
“Several successive years of record-level investment are yielding positive results,” said Brian Searles, secretary of the Agency of Transportation. “We are seeing improved performance in pavement quality and in the condition of our structures. To continue these gains, this transportation bill will advance the repair or replacement of more than 100 bridges, perform preventive maintenance on dozens of structures and improve more than 375 miles of pavement.”
At $140.3 million — an increase of $7.6 million, or 6 percent compared to the current budget — bridge replacement and repair makes up approximately 20 percent of the overall budget. Searles said much of the work will include replacing the temporary bridges that were erected following flooding from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
“There are still expenditures related to Tropical Storm Irene and other weather events to the tune of $50 million,” Searles said.
The budget includes approximately $19 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Searles said he expects Irene repairs to be completed by the end of the 2016 construction season.
The budget also includes $115.7 million for paving, an increase of $7.5 million, or 7 percent, compared to the current budget. Plans include paving 95 miles of interstate highways and 210 miles of state roadways.
On the local level, the budget includes $4.3 million for paving and improvements on Route 4 and Route 7 in Rutland; $2.5 million for Route 3 between Proctor and Rutland, and $1.6 million for Route 100 in Killington.
Also on deck is $500,000 in repairs to Route 302 in Berlin, which connects Barre and Montpelier; $2 million to repair the Route 14 bridge in East Montpelier; and $1 million for a shared-use path between Berlin and Montpelier.
In the Rutland area, public transportation dollars will fund improvements for air and rail travel. The Rutland regional airport will receive approximately $7 million in federal money due to a mandate from the Federal Aviation Administration to improve a safety area around the runway.
Also, the long-in-the-works Western Rail Corridor project will receive $19 million to upgrade an additional 10 miles of tracks and build a bridge in Pittsford. When work is complete, there will only be an additional 12 miles of track improvement needed before the corridor can open up and allow Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express to travel between Rutland and Burlington.
Searles said that if the state receives another federal rail grant in 2015, travel could begin as early as the end of 2015.