BRATTLEBORO -- After weeks of gloomy financial forecasts the town of Brattleboro finally got some good news Wednesday.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation announced that the town is going to receive a special grant to help re-pave a portion of Western Avenue. The money was included in the state's annual pavement treatment program and it will be used to re-pave almost two miles of Route 9 through West Brattleboro.
"This is really good news," said Hannah O'Connell, Brattleboro Highway and Utility Superintendent. "It buys us some time and will help us get some more life out of that road, though certainly at some point we are going to have to think about doing a major repair to Western Avenue."
The state money will allow the town to re-pave Western Avenue with an inch-and-a-half overlay from the Interstate 91 exit to Edward Heights, where Western Avenue becomes a state highway.
The project will be done this summer and it will take about a week to complete, O'Connell said, adding that while it is considered a temporary fix, the road should remain in pretty good shape for five to 10 ears.
Brattleboro is one of only two municipalities in the state that will be able to use the state money on a town-owned roadway. St. Albans received a similar grant. All of the other grants are going to be used on state-owned highways.
VTrans Assistant Director of Program Development Kevin Marshia said state officials and regional commissions looked at the roughest roads in the state and distributed the funding to the hardest hit communities.
Marshia said Brattleboro will re-pave the road and get reimbursed from the state for the work. He said the work will probably cost between $100,000 and $150,000.
"We have done this in the past, but it is not something we normally do," Marshia said about earmarking the money toward a town-owned road. "It was a long, hard winter and it took a toll on our roads. We heard a lot about that section and got a lot of calls about how bad it was down there."
Other roads in Windham County that will receive the emergency paving include portions of Route 100 in Whitingham, Wilmington, Jamaica, Readsboro and Londonderry, Route 5 in Rockingham and Route 11 in Londonderry.
Rep. Mollie Burke, P/D -- Brattleboro, is a member of the House Transportation Committee and she said it was extremely rare for a municipality to get state help for one of its crumbling roads. It helped that Route 9 and Western Avenue is an important east-west throughway. And the fact that Route 9 was not going to receive a major resurfacing for a few years added to the urgency of the situation.
"Basically Route 9 is one of the worst roads in the state right now. The Transportation Committee saw that and VTrans saw that," Burke said. "VTrans really listened and they came up with a solution. They realized how bad it was."
Brattleboro Interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland said the winter was tough on the road budget and the state money comes at a time when the town can use some good financial news.
"A grant like this is critically important for us," Moreland said. "Anyone who has spent time this winter traveling over Western Avenue knows the condition of that road. We are very appreciative of our local legislators for shedding light on this problem and we appreciate the financial support from the state."
Across Vermont, VTrans saw similar strains on the budget. The Agency of Transportation spends on average $20.6 million on winter maintenance and this year winter maintenance expenditures were approximately $28.5 million. VTrans also set a new record for salt use, topping 131,700 tons of salt compared to a typical season where about 87,500 tons are used on state roads.
Gov. Peter Shumlin announced the road funding last week as part of a statewide re-paving effort following the harsh winter. The specific project list was released Wednesday. Shumlin said this year's pavement program is the largest in the state's history and will repair a record 145 miles of Vermont State Highways. The state was able to extend the program this year with the help of an additional $9 million in federal funding that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was able to secure as part of a rebuilding grant for Tropical Storm Irene damage.
"These funds are being released to Vermont now because we have reached certain expenditure levels in repair work on the state system from Irene and we are putting them to good use in addressing our pressing roadway needs," Shumlin said. "I want to extend heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to Sen. Sanders, whose assistance in Congress was instrumental in securing additional funds for Vermont to help us rebuild from the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene."
The Fast Fix 14 program supplies emergency paving money to roadways that are not going to be repaired in the regular paving program for a few years. The emergency projects include pothole repairs, full width leveling, spot paving and rut-fill/narrow-band paving.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.