Vermont Roads Show Improvement

Fri July 12, 2013 - Northeast Edition

Despite heavy rains that have washed out some Vermont roads this summer, a new federal report said Vermont has shown “significant improvement” in highway conditions.

The state has risen from 42nd to 28th in the country in the Reason Foundation’s analyisis based on 2009 data.

The Legislature passed a fuel-tax increase in 2009 to go toward a new bonding program to provide more money for bridge maintenance. The state also repaved interstate 89 between Richmond and Georgia that year, winning it a top ranking for “urban interstate pavement condition” from the Reason Foundation.

“I’m happy with the jump, but it is still in the bottom half,” Rep. Patrick Brennan, R-Colchester told the Burlington Free Press. “Unless we stay on top of things, we are going to slip back.”

The administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Legislature this year agreed to raise the fuel taxes again to help fund the state’s growing list of transportation projects.

“What we saw in the Legislature was just a major level of support to continue the momentum to make the system better,” said Transportation Secretary Brian Searles.

Road construction projects are everywhere across the state as the state works to reduce the percentage of roads and bridges deemed in poor condition.

The funding from the 2-percent rise in the gas tax in May and the 2-cent diesel tax hike will allow the state to do more work as it weans itself from the $185 million it received in stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

In 2007, 20 percent of Vermont’s bridges were deemed structurally deficient. In 2012, the percentage decreased to 9.3 percent, said Deputy Transportation Secretary Sue Minter.

In 2009, 34 percent of state highways were rated in “very poor condition.” The percentage dropped to 24 percent or about 800 mi. in 2012, Minter said.