Stretching a dollar to see just how far it could go got Shelburne about 1.5 miles of fresh pavement this summer. It was about 3 miles less than what the town hoped to pave with the original budget that voters approved on Town Meeting Day.
There are about 60 miles of publicly owned road in Shelburne, according to Paul Goodrich, the town’s highway superintendent.
“Our paving budget was cut by $200,000,” Goodrich said.
With $150,000 left to spend, he had to be discerning about which streets would get a fresh coat this summer. In March, Goodrich had planned to pave portions of Dorset Street, Spear Street and Shelburne Road. He also hoped to pave a few developments.
This summer the highway team was able to pave about half a mile on Spear Street — he had hoped to do a mile, a portion of Harbor Road and several developments.
The Highway Department still has a bit of its paving funds left, and Goodrich hoped to have a bit more paving in the developments completed this week.
He believes the roads are in good shape ahead of winter.
“Of course, the longer you let them go if you don’t pave more this year, the longer they go the worse they get,” Goodrich said. “So that becomes a big issue. they break up faster, it costs more money to repave them.”
That can mean cold patching the roads during the winter months. But cold patching is costly, and it doesn’t last long, Goodrich explained.
Although many Vermonters were off the roads this spring during the Stay Home, Stay Safe order, he isn’t convinced it spared the roads a material amount of wear and tear.
“It probably has some [impact] but I don’t think it’s going to be the winning factor,” he said. “It isn’t car traffic that ruins your roads, it’s truck traffic that ruins your roads.”
While many commuters stayed home, construction crews continued to work, driving their trucks around the town. Shelburne roads were made, years ago, to withstand about 24,000 pounds. But today’s trucks are larger and can surpass 60,000 pounds, Goodrich said.
More enforcement and weigh-ins could help catch and discourage trucks that surpass the town’s weight limit, he said.
Each spring, Shelburne applies for state grant funding to help with its paving efforts. Goodrich isn’t sure if those funds will be available next spring, but he hopes that perhaps, before July 1, the town might find itself with a little room in the budget to pave a few more roads.
South Burlington workers also had to sharpen their pencils this spring and adjust the voter-approved municipal budget to the financial realities of COVID-19.
Public Works Director Justin Rabidoux, reached by email, said the city shaved its $750,000 paving budget to $375,000. The result was enough money to pave a portion of Dorset Street between Market and Garden streets.
The city had planned to pave Spear Street from Swift Street to the University of Vermont, Larch Road and Arbor Road as well, Rabidoux said.
The Department of Public Works was able to grind out bad sections of Spear Street and repave them. They also repaired potholes on Larch Road and Arbor Road — although those still need a full repaving, Rabidoux wrote.
As summer ends and winter looms, its impact on Vermont roads will depend on what weather patterns are like.
“The extent to which winter impacts road conditions varies drastically year to year depending on the type of winter we have,” Rabidoux said. “The real ‘road killer’ effect of winter comes from continual daily freeze/thaw cycles mixed with a little precipitation.”
As for next spring, it’s too early to say whether Vermont towns will be able to get state funding to help with projects. In a normal year, state grant funds are available to help towns cover 80 percent of the cost of paving main roads. But this year, because of COVID setbacks, those funds were frozen.
“There is some talk that additional monies will make their way down to local governments from the state to aid in road repairs, but nothing formal has been approved yet,” Rabidoux wrote.
South Burlington resident and bike and pedestrian committee member Nic Anderson is an avid bicyclist. This April he biked down every city street with his kids Cora and Sage.
As a bicyclist, sometimes what matters more to him than road conditions are the conditions of painted lines. When lines fade it can lead to different driving habits and more concern from people who may want to bike, he said.
The city had about $11,000 worth of line painting in South Burlington, including the skip lines, center lines and bike lanes along our busiest sections of road.
With most of the department of public works staff on furlough from mid-March until Aug. 3, a lot of projects and routine maintenance had to fall by the wayside, Rabidoux said. With crews back, the city is playing catch-up on most of its maintenance work.
As for less paving being completed than what was originally planned for, Anderson is understanding.
“Unfortunately, due to COVID we all need to be more flexible in our expectations around road maintenance, as long as it doesn’t pose a safety risk,” he said. “I assume a lot of projects that were on the books may need to be altered or pushed out further. This is just reality.”
Hinesburg shaves some off the top
Hinesburg was set to start paving roads this week, when Highway Department Foreman Michael Anthony caught up with this reporter.
“After sitting down with the board, we discussed that because of the whole COVID thing we were just going to do some paving to get us through the winter on some of the rough spots on our roads,” Anthony said.
This, he added, would mean the town would have a little more money on hand in case COVID-related challenges required the funds.
Pre-COVID the town had budgeted $250,000 for paving. After the virus hit, they reduced that budget to $70,000, retaining the funds in case they were needed to help fund other city services impacted by COVID-19. If the town does not touch that money, it could be used to fund additional paving work this spring, Anthony said.
The town will do shimming work on part of Richmond Road and a few spots on Pond Road, which will work out to about 1.5 miles of road total. If the town were using the originally planned $250,000 it would be able to pave 2.3 miles of road, Anthony said.
But the town does have the ability to do emergency repairs this winter if they are needed, he said.
While state grant monies were frozen this summer, Anthony hopes they will return next spring. The grants can be as high as $175,000, which, on top of the $250,000 paving budget, could pave four miles of road, he said.
Hinesburg has 26 miles of paved public roads and 32 miles of gravel roads.
It’s been a challenging time for the Hinesburg Highway Department as the crew slimmed down to two employees between April and August.
“A lot of our summertime work got put on the back burner just because we just didn’t have the manpower to do some things,” Anthony said.
A new employee has since joined the team, but the department is still looking to fill the other vacancy.
Grants help in Charlotte
Charlotte began its paving in June, making use of $235,000 in FY20 funds and a state paving grant of $104,031.70, according to Town Administrator Dean Bloch.
The total cost of paving was $298,497, so the town ended up spending less than what was budgeted becuase of the grant. Roads that received new paving were: Ferry Road, Lake Road, Thompson’s Point Road, Greenbush Road, Church Hill Road and Mt. Philo Road. Quinlan’s covered bridge and Sequin Covered Bridge also received side aprons from the bridge to the end of the guardrails.
The town cut its paving budget back $50,000 because of COVID, Road Commissioner Hugh Lewis Jr. said.