Traffic delays expected at North Hero Bridge

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(Host) Commuters from the Lake Champlain islands can expect some delays when they get to a bridge that connects North Hero to Grand Isle.

The state has limited traffic on the bridge to one-lane only. That’s because the bridge is considered structurally deficient and officials want to reduce the strain on it.

Transportation Secretary Neale Lunderville says the bridge is one more sign that Vermont’s transportation infrastructure needs help.

(Lunderville) "We have bridges, we have culverts and we have some roadways that are in need of some serious repair. And a dollar that we spend today on those projects saves us $10 having to replace them in the very near future if we do nothing."

(Host) A "structurally deficient" bridge is not unsafe. But it may need weight limits. And the designation is a clear sign that extensive repair work is needed.

The problem is getting worse with Interstate and state highway bridges.

The Transportation Agency reports that in 2003, there were 35 structurally deficient bridges on the interstates, compared to 40 in 2006. On state highways, the number of deficient bridges grew from 148 in 2003 to 157 last year.

Lunderville says closing bridges to one-lane traffic is a warning sign that the state is not keeping pace with fixing its aging infrastructure.

(Lunderville) "So by refocusing our priorities on our existing infrastructure we hope to in future years begin to reduce that emergency list. We are going to see these fixes that have to be done, these emergency type situations. But our plan is over the next few years to put a focus on taking care of our existing infrastructure so that the emergencies become few and far between."

(Host) The state last year unveiled a plan called the Road to Affordability. It emphasizes repairs and maintenance over new highway projects.

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