SHAFTSBURY — It’s a harbinger of summer on par with newly busy golf courses and ice cream stands: Heavy trucks, workers in hardhats and reflective vests reminding you to slow down, and orange cones and road work signs.
That’s the scene on Route 7A in Shaftsbury, as workers from Peckham Road Corp. tackle a paving project along the highway between Route 67A and Valley View Road. The $1.33 million job is expected to run through the fall. It’s one of several projects planned throughout Windham and Bennington counties.
Vermont Agency of Transportation project manager Matthew Bogaczyk said the Shaftsbury work is a “typical paving project.” Namely, an inch and a half of pavement is being milled off the surface. Some sections of the highway will be leveled out where they’ve settled out of true. Existing guardrails will be repaired as needed. And to top it off, a fresh 1½ inches of pavement.
Shaftsbury Town Administrator David Kiernan said there have been regular complaints about that stretch of 7A.
He believes residents will welcome the work, despite the delays it may cause.
“People have wanted that stretch, especially toward North Road, to be fixed for a long time,” Kiernan said. “Parts are sloughing off to the east. That caused a lot of water to collect in the roadway, which made for a rough and unpleasant ride in bad weather.”
The 3-mile job is one of several taking place throughout Southern Vermont this summer. The repaving of Route 9 between Marlboro and Brattleboro will continue, as will efforts to remove ledge along that busy east-west highway in Woodford.
In Windham County, Interstate 91 is getting a new coat of pavement from Brattleboro to Westminster, and bridge work is scheduled on a span in Westminster.
Route 112 through Whittingham and Halifax is also being paved. The work covers a 7.5-mile stretch of highway from the Massachusetts state line to Route 100. Eurovia Atlantic Coast LLC is the contractor, and the job is estimated at $3.35 million.
Work is expected to begin this year on a 10-mile stretch of Route 30 between Brattleboro and Newfane. That bid was advertised on April 20, and once awarded, the scope of work for this summer and fall includes preparation in advance of milling and paving in 2023.
Work has already begun on the single-lane Arch Bridge in the Williamsville section of Newfane. That span is being replaced with a new, wider single-lane bridge over the Rock River, at a cost of $4.23 million.
At the other end of Route 30, a paving project in Rupert and Pawlet is still being advertised. That will also be a typical milling, spot repair and paving project, Bogaczyk said.
Westminster might see the most construction this summer, between the work on Interstate 91 and a $4.14 million deck and joint replacement on a bridge on Route 121 east of the interstate. According to an online fact sheet on the VTrans website, the bridge will be closed from June 20 through Aug. 19 as Renaud Brothers Inc. completes the work. The fact sheet on the job lists the 222-foot span as “fracture critical” and is deemed in fair condition.
At the local level, towns are waiting on state grants to decide what work will get done this summer — and watching the price of oil, which directly affects the price of paving asphalt.
In Manchester, the town has budgeted $100,000 for paving in fiscal 2023, town manager John O’Keefe said.
The two major projects slated for the summer are on Barnumville Road, in conjunction with a water line replacement, and a top coat to complete earlier paving on Beech Street. There’s been discussion of pushing Beech Street to next year, ‘but that’s rolling the dice,’” O’Keefe said.
Arlington is also awaiting grants for paving Crow Hill Road and Red Mountain Road, town administrator Nick Zaiac said. Both roads are much in need of attention, he said.
Bennington has allocated $341,150 for paving this year, with a “top-to-bottom rebuild” of Maple Street, including drainage improvements and new sidewalks along with the utility work, town manager Stuart Hurd said.
The past several years, Bennington has allocated about $400,000 annually to paving as it replaces sewer and lead water service lines. “This year we stayed in that range. But we are now thinking that we’re going to be paring that way back,” Hurd said.
“We’ll spend what we would normally spend, but probably do a third less work and it may be because of costs and our ability to get that material,” Hurd said. “We may focus on one or two projects and call it a year. It’s hard to predict.”
While there are explanations — pandemic production slowdowns and post-pandemic inflation among them — Hurd believes the major oil companies are profit-taking, and thinks something ought to be done about that, and about inflation.
“What is an oil company doing reducing production at a time like this other than profiteering?” he asked.