There’s absolutely nothing like a beautiful June day in Vermont. We were fortunate enough to get a couple of these beauties in a row last weekend, so we split it; Saturday we worked around the house, Sunday we went to the Manchester Car Show. Both days were glorious, both days were rewarding. On Saturday we did a big recycling run. I cut down a scrub tree and we recycled that thing as well. Then we were able to load my Ford F100 pickup onto my car trailer and transported it to have it looked at to get it back on the road. We also made the decision to get a big demolition box to haul away all the junk left over from a couple of long awaited clean-up projects on the property. It was a productive day that ended with a great dinner at a nice restaurant.
On Sunday we drove over to Manchester for their annual car show. My fiancee had not yet driven the Mustang GT, so I tossed her the keys and away we went. She really enjoyed the car, its brutal acceleration, tight handling, and great exhaust note. Neither of us enjoyed the condition of our local roads. Route 35 from Grafton to Chester is a potholed minefield. Yes, the winter of 2014 was tough, but this section of road got beat up very badly. I’ve never seen it in such poor condition. Not that we drove it last weekend, but Route 9/Western Avenue in Brattleboro will beat your car’s suspension until it cries uncle, then beat on it again. Union Street in Springfield ... well, OK, most of Springfield’s streets are a mess. I don’t think there’s a town in our area that doesn’t have at least a couple of main thoroughfares that are in dismal condition. Rough winter? Yes. Neglect? Maybe in some cases, but I can’t speak to that issue. However, a lack of funds has to be a major factor.
Having to repair the damages from Tropical Storm Irene diverted a lot of town resources and trashed budgets in a big way. Now, nearly four years later we are witnessing that lack of money with deteriorating roads that most likely did not get the money and attention they needed. You’ve got to make things up any way you can when you are trying to juggle too much with too little, and that’s what Vermont’s local road budgets have been doing. I call it deferred maintenance. It can only work for so long until the conditions catch up with you. Right now it just isn’t stretching far enough.
Rough roads do a number on your car or truck. While ravaged suspension parts can be replaced, we can’t all replace them at the very moment they need replacing, and our individual deferred maintenance has a greater cost. Worn suspension hastens tire wear making them unsafe. Suspensions that bottom out all the time will wreak havoc on a vehicles structural integrity. Seam welds can separate, weakening the structure and allowing rust and corrosion to begin. From there its a downward spiral of rattling, bumping, rusting, degrading metal. In just a few short years a good strong vehicle can be reduced to an unreliable money pit. We need our roads, but we also need roads that don’t beat us up in the process, rendering our transportation unaffordable.
As we traveled to Manchester on Route 11 we encountered good sections of road surface alternating with rough surfaces. We came up on slower traffic that gingerly picked a path among the rough sections ... then a flat opens up and my fiancee punched the accelerator. The smooth power delivery was upset by the uneven pavement, but we got around the slower traffic. As we headed up the hill west out of Londonderry the pavement was new, and suddenly our ride was smooth again. Thanks to tight budgets and deferred maintenance, it won’t last.
Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.