Summer Ahead: Expect Busy Road Crews

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(Host) There’s going to be a lot of road construction going on this summer in Vermont.

That’s because the Legislature is about to approve the largest Transportation bill the state has ever seen.   It’s fueled, in part, by more than $125 million in federal stimulus funds.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Be prepared for a lot of construction on Vermont’s transportation system this summer – that’s the word from Senate Transportation chairman Dick Mazza.

The Senate has just given its final approval to a 2011 Transportation bill that spends nearly $600 million in state and federal funds on a variety of projects throughout the state.

Mazza says the money will help reduce the state’s backlog on paving projects and will help repair as many as 80 bridges:

(Mazza) "We’ve done a substantial amount of paving last year it was over a 100 million this year it’s another $100 million, $93 million, bridges you’ll see more construction than ever before we have had the stimulus money the last two years and that’s added a good bunch of money about $125 million and so be prepared for a lot of construction this summer and I think we’re making great progress."

(Kinzel) Mazza says the state will also use $50 million in federal stimulus money to repair rail beds between St. Albans and Springfield, Massachusetts: 

(Mazza) "And with that money passenger rail will go faster number one and one of the things that people are looking for if they’re going to take the train is faster service it will make faster service for Amtrak plus I believe it will also add more freight to that line."

(Kinzel) The legislation also appropriates $30 million for the construction of a new bridge at Crown Point. The old bridge was declared unsafe and was demolished this winter. 

The new bill represents the end of an era for expensive projects in the state.  Mazza says once three remaining projects are completed, the state will be able to target virtually all of its money to help maintain the current system: 

(Mazza) "Our Route 7 improvements are going as scheduled, we’ll be starting the Morrisville bypass this year, a construction that’s been in the works for many, many years – Bennington bypass – is under construction. So, when those major projects are completed I don’t see any new ones in the pipeline and so then we can dedicate more of the funds to our existing infrastructure."

(Kinzel) Mazza says the state is also trying to land a 70 million dollar federal grant to improve rail service in the western part of the state. He says the goal is to provide Amtrak passenger service between Burlington and Albany, New York.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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