Managing the Municipal Highway System

Last week, I attended the VLCT’s Workshop “Managing the Municipal Highway System”. There were about 50 attendees, consisting of Select Board Members, Town Managers, Public Works Directors, Road Foreman, Planners, VT Local Roads, VTrans and VLCT Staff. Small towns and large cities were represented, so there was a wide range of participants and experience.

The workshop started with VLCT Staff portraying a bleak transportation funding horizon from Federal, State, and Local sources. The VLCT is encouraging communities to support their 2009 Municipal Policy which includes: Stopping the Transportation Fund transfer; Increasing the Transportation Fund Tax and/or Fees; Developing alternative/innovative funding sources; Expand use of bonding; and commit resources to structurally deficient bridges.

VTrans next presented their Bridge Inspection Program. They showed how a leaky joint in 1987 was starting to erode a bridge pier, and could have been repaired for $1,000. Over time, more photos showed the pier’s erosion accelerating, and by 2002 an emergency brace had to be installed to support the beam, resulting in a costly repair. They outlined a preventative maintenance program that included: smoothing approach & wearing surfaces; annual washing; semi-annually applying water repellent to concrete; spot paint; maintain joints/drains; and remove debris/vegetation.

Vermont Local Roads described proper paved and gravel road design. They stressed that water is a roads worst enemy, and maintenance crews should focus on good drainage. This include applying good material, using fabric, filling cracks, building proper ditches, maintaining culverts, and keeping driveway stormwater from entering the road.

Montpelier’s Public Works Director explained their approach to stretching local highway dollars to address the escalating costs of everything. He suggested applying for grants from any source you are eligible for, and described the different funding sources available. Regional Planning Commissions can also provide assistance with studies, inventories, and traffic counting. Montpelier looks to stretch their money before problems arise, by improving efficiency, and if necessary to reduce services. He stressed that it is important to establish good communication with City leaders, managers, and the public.

The last presentation was from the City of Middlebury. They have been trying to build a new bridge in the downtown for over 50 years. They finally forego the Federal/State funding route, and are building the bridge as a local public/private partnership. This reduced the red tape in design, permitting, and ROW. Funding sources included a 30 year bond, a Middlebury College gift, and a 1% local option tax. They expect the bridge to be built in two years. For more information on the workshop, contract Steve Gladczuk, CVRPC Senior Transportation Planner, email – Gladczuk@cvregion.com, phone 229-0389.

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