Price Tag For Fixing Roads Will Exceed $15 Million

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(Host) According to a new report, the total price tag for fixing state and town roads that were damaged by recent floods will exceed $15 million.

The federal government is expected to pay most of the bill.

But as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, some local towns might have to raise their property tax rates to pay for their share of these repair projects.

(Kinzel) Deputy Transportation Secretary Sue Minter is overseeing the flood damage to the state’s public transportation system.  She says some roads suffered enormous damage because the recent floods were a continuation of extreme weather conditions that undermined the foundation of many highways.

(Minter) "The roads through the winter, the freeze and thaw of our winter and the snows and the pounding from the plowing, has definitely deteriorated our roadway system. …When you look at infrastructure costs to towns and the state combined, if you look at all these events combined, it’s looking in the realm of $15 to $16 million."

(Kinzel) Minter says the cost of fixing many roads is high because repair crews will have to completely rebuild the foundation of the highway.

(Minter) "Some of the supporting structures have literally gotten oversaturated. And in clay soils, this has led to real instability. And part of the money… is actually the rebuilding that it’s going to take to rebuild the underside of the roads as well as the surface itself."

(Kinzel) Minter says about half of the $16 million repair bill involves major state roads. In these cases, the federal government pays 100 percent of the work. The other half involves town roads – in these cases the feds pay 75 percent. And the state and the individual town split the remaining 25 percent.

Steve Jeffrey is the executive director of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.  He says there are roughly 11,000 miles of town roads in the state. And he says many of these gravel roads suffered as much damage as the state’s paved roads.

(Jeffrey) "A lot of it was coming from underneath where the culverts were just too small to be able to handle the flow that came down. So it didn’t matter what you had on top. It washed away from underneath."

(Kinzel) And Jeffrey says local communities really have only one way to pay for their share of road repair costs.

(Jeffrey) "It’s going to fall back on the property tax, which is really the only source of revenue that municipalities have to pay for things such as  roads. So it’ll definitely, sooner or later, show up in the property tax bill."

(Kinzel) Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding says the state’s share of the road repair costs will be approximately $1.5 million.

(Spaulding) "The state will have to seek a budget adjustment for those. Fortunately, with revenues coming in above our projections, there shouldn’t be any controversy there."

(Kinzel) Spaulding says the administration hopes to learn later this week if federal grant money will be available to homeowners who have suffered financial losses as a result of the floods.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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