Record Transportation Budget Means Plenty Of Road Work

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Governor Peter Shumlin signed into law a record state transportation budget on Wednesday.

And with that will come a long list of construction work this summer.

Carolyn Carlson is in charge of one of the bigger and more complicated of the scores of highway and bridge projects that VTrans is overseeing.

"You can see they have this, kind of a system where that will just slide through that rail that they have built right there," Carlson said as she looked out over the Route 2 bridge near Interstate 89 in Richmond.

A big green iron bridge that spans the Winooski River between Richmond and Williston is being widened and rebuilt.

The 1929 bridge is now 20 feet wide. It’s being cut apart and will be reassembled to make room for a 30-foot-wide travel lane.

"It won’t be done until June 2013," Carlson said. "The contractor needs to have traffic on the bridge by the end of June 2013."

From Lake Champlain to the Connecticut River and from Quebec to Massachusetts, projects large and small are under way this year, thanks to a record $658 million budget.

VTrans says the work ranges from this big iconic truss bridge in Chittenden County, to the northern leg of the Bennington Bypass.

Major reconstruction of Route 2 in the Danville area and of Route 7 in Brandon and Pittsford is also still under way.

Besides those big-ticket, high-profile projects, there will be dozens of smaller ones.

"Obviously a record amount of spending means a record amount of construction sites across the state," said Scott Rogers, operations director at VTrans.

 "When you combine that with all the work we still have to do left over from Tropical Storm Irene, that translates to more work zones on state highways than we’ve ever seen before," he said.

Rogers says drivers will have to be patient and just expect they’ll need to slow down – and put down their cell phones – when they come upon construction areas.

And although there’s still work left to fix damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene, a lot of the repairs from last fall have held up.

Wayne Gammell is part of a "scan tour" of VTrans workers from various divisions of the agency. They’re inspecting all of the work done after Irene. They’ve visited about half the sites so far this spring and work has been deemed complete on 65 percent of them.

Gammell says some of the unfinished work is pretty minor.

"Believe it or not, a lot of the stuff that’s not done is small stuff," Gammell said. "We need to clean up the ditching, drainage a little bit. We have some shoulder work that needs to be done. We need to get some more vegetation started."

There are bigger jobs. There are stretches of Route 100 in the Plymouth and Jamaica areas that need attention. In Jamaica, a bridge is still out on Route 30. And on Route 4, VTrans ran out of the size stone it needed last fall. So it will go in this summer and fix it.

But all in all, Gammell says, the engineers are pleased with how everything came through the winter.

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