Gov. Peter Shumlin was joined today by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and state Transportation officials to announce the launch of "Fast Fix 14," the largest pavement treatment program in the state's history to repair a record 145 miles of Vermont state highways, in addition to the 230 miles of federally funded paving in the annual Capital Program.
This comes on the heels of a brutal winter maintenance season in which the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) responded to nearly 100 storm events. The Agency of Transportation expends on average $20.6 million on winter maintenance and uses 87,500 tons of salt on state highways. This past winter, maintenance expenditures were approximately $28.5 million and VTrans used 131,700 tons of salt, setting new records for expenditures and salt usage.
"I want to thank the hard working employees in the VTrans Operations Division for their outstanding efforts to keep our roads safe, particularly during this extraordinary winter that wreaked havoc on our roads," said Gov. Shumlin. "I am pleased that Secretary Searles and his team have pulled together a record-setting paving project to respond, and appreciate that the Legislature provided the flexibility to put this program together. These investments keep our roads safer, create jobs, and provide an economic boost."
The Fast Fix 14 program uses a variety of pavement treatments to address state highways that are in very poor condition and aren't going to be repaired in the regular paving program for several years. These treatments are intended to fix the pavement surface, which will provide a smoother ride along the roadway until those stretches can be included in the regular paving program. These paving treatments include pothole repairs, full width leveling, spot paving, and rut-fill / narrow band paving.
The funds are being balanced geographically to all areas of the state. VTrans will also be adding new tools for combatting potholes year-round with the addition of four Mobile Asphalt Reclamation Units (MARU). These will allow districts to create recycled hot mix in the winter.
"I also want to extend heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to Senator Sanders, whose assistance in Congress was instrumental in securing additional funds for Vermont to help us rebuild from the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene," said Gov. Shumlin. "These funds are being released to Vermont now because we have reached certain expenditure levels in repair work on the state system from Irene and we are putting them to good use in addressing our pressing roadway needs.
"This is how government is supposed to work, with the federal and state governments working together to address the needs of our citizens," the Governor said.
"You do not need a degree in civil engineering to understand that if we do not fix these roads and bridges now, it's going to cost more in the long-run. I am pleased I was able to secure an additional $9 million for Vermont to improve our state's roadways and bridges," Sen. Sanders said. "In addition to making our roadways safer, investing in infrastructure is one of the best ways to create good-paying jobs."
In a joint statement, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), Sen. Sanders (I) and Rep. Peter Welch (D) said: "For months the Vermont delegation has been raising the alarm on the need to replenish the Highway Trust Fund. We have pushed Congress to act to ensure that states like Vermont with short construction seasons have the resources and certainty we need to complete critical projects. We appreciate that just this week the Obama Administration sent a new proposal to Congress, and we will continue to urge prompt adoption of a compromise highway bill."
"We need to balance our long-term goal of improving the overall condition of our road network with the immediate needs created by more frequent severe weather events," said Transportation Secretary Brian Searles. "The trend in winter weather is not encouraging and this additional support helps us keep our overall paving program on-track while giving us the ability to address the critical safety issues associated with potholes, cracks, heaves and ruts."
Despite the impact from this record breaking winter, the condition of Vermont highways has been improving as a result of the significant investments that have been occurring since 2009. In 2009, the number of very poor state highways in Vermont was at 34 percent, and in 2013 that number had decreased to 21 percent. The Fast Fix 14 program maintains the State's commitment to improve the performance of the road system by treating roads with fresh asphalt that otherwise would not receive paving for some years.