DUMMERSTON -- In the buildup to the Interstate 91 bridge-replacement project in Brattleboro, there was much concern about the possible impact of detoured traffic -- especially when busy Route 30 is closed underneath the bridge.
State Agency of Transportation officials now have sent along some money to help alleviate those impacts. But the amount -- $9,814 total for both Brattleboro and Dummerston -- has left some less than impressed.
"I was disappointed, having gone to those (pre-construction) meetings, that this is what it came down to," said Zeke Goodband, Dummerston Selectboard chairman.
But Eric Foster, a VTrans engineer overseeing the I-91 work, said the state grants are not meant to cover all local costs spurred by the bridge project.
"This is a new grant process to allow VTrans to provide 'some' financial assistance in these situations where none was provided in the past," Foster said. "The grant is not a reimbursement of all possible costs associated with the anticipated increase in local traffic."
Crews from general contractor PCL last year began demolition of two aging, structurally deficient spans carrying the interstate over Route 30 and the West River. The project also will include replacement of the nearby, much smaller I-91 bridge over Upper Dummerston Road.
The job carries a $60 million price tag and is expected to continue into 2016.
Project administrators have pledged to keep any closures of Route 30 as short as possible. And, for those times when the road is shut, VTrans has designated an official detour that stretches all the way to Rockingham and Chester via I-91, Route 11 and Route 103.
There is acknowledgment, however, that a lot of local traffic simply will use Upper Dummerston Road -- which lies in both Brattleboro and Dummerston -- as a much shorter detour.
"VTrans is not detouring traffic to Upper Dummerston Road when VT 30 is closed, as there will be a ‘signed' regional detour in place," Foster wrote in an e-mail to the Reformer. "However, VTrans does understand that local drivers will still likely use the Upper Dummerston Road."
That leads to concerns about road damage and the cost of supplemental law enforcement on Upper Dummerston Road, where some residents complain of speeding problems even during normal traffic flow.
When Route 30 was shut for two days in December, Upper Dummerston Road hosted relatively heavy traffic. And Brattleboro Police assigned additional police officers to the area.
The state's "local bypass grant agreement" is meant to assist with some of those costs, Foster said.
The grants are calculated based on maintenance, enforcement and dust control (in the case of unpaved roads). Foster laid out some specifics of that formula:
-- Projected maintenance costs are based on one-fourth of the annual dollars per mile from the state's current Town Highway Grant Program rates.
-- Law enforcement is based on 20 hours per week to provide increased enforcement "in order to minimize speeding and overweight vehicles," Foster said. State officials don't necessarily account for a "constant" police presence, he said.
-- Dust control -- while not applicable to this project -- is based on the average cost for calcium chloride at an application rate of a half-pound per square yard of road.
Those calculations led the state to assign bypass grants of $7,663 to Brattleboro and $2,151 to Dummerston. That money is not just for the current year, but for the duration of the I-91 project.
"For Dummerston and Brattleboro, the grant amounts were prorated based on how much mileage of the Upper Dummerston Road was in each town," Foster said.
Selectboards in both towns have accepted the grants. Patrick Moreland, Brattleboro's interim town manager, said he was aware of the state's grant formula and was "not surprised" at the amount.
"That's going to assist us with overtime for police and (also) if there are any additional maintenance tasks associated with the closure of Route 30," Moreland said.
On the whole, he added, the town does not expect the sporadic Route 30 detours to cause major maintenance problems on Upper Dummerston Road.
"That's not a bypass for truck traffic," Moreland said.
Dummerston officials haven't been as optimistic. Goodband said a Selectboard member shot a video of the town's portion of Upper Dummerston Road so that "we'll have documentation of the road from before this began."
There also has been concern that some Route 30 traffic will divert onto East-West Road via Dummerston's historic covered bridge.
"We anticipated more wear and tear on the covered bridge," Goodband said. "That's a high-maintenance item for the town."
But Goodband noted that the state's bypass grant is specifically targeted only at Upper Dummerston Road impacts.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.