Montpelier road repair plan comes with big price tagJeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo
Cars negotiate a minefield of potholes on Barre Street in Montpelier on Thursday.
MONTPELIER — Getting the city’s streets back into shape is projected to cost between $750,000 and $1.2 million a year, depending on whether the city spreads the work over five or 10 years.
A team from the city’s Department of Public Works laid out a plan for the City Council at its meeting Wednesday evening.
DPW Director Todd Law, City Engineer Kurt Motyka and engineering technician Zach Blodgett walked city officials through the classes of roads in Montpelier, how much state assistance is available for each, and how much of the repair bill is left fully on the city’s shoulders.
The council ultimately decided to have its Capital Improvements Committee take a more in-depth look at the recommendations and report back.
Many of the city’s streets have fallen into disrepair with the winter’s seemingly incessant cycle of freezing and thawing, Law said.
“We had a plan in place up until two to three weeks ago; until the roads started unraveling with the freeze-thaw cycle we had and then the potholes,” and the plan had to be “retweaked,” Law said. “As we received more and more complaints about potholes, it did bring a few things to light that we need to focus on.”
Three classes of roads crisscross the city.
Class I highways, like Route 2, are state-owned. The city helps maintain them by filling potholes and the like, but repaving and upgrades are the state’s responsibility.
Class II highways, such as River Street and Northfield Street, are used as main corridors. State funding for 80 percent of the cost of road projects is available through a competitive grant process.
Class III roads are residential and fully the city’s responsibility. Montpelier has 203 such segments of road.
The Public Works staff said the repairs needed are extensive and citywide.
One factor taken into consideration in planning the work is the need for significant utility upgrades under many streets. Putting too much money and labor into repairing a road that needs underground utility upgrades in the not-too-distant future doesn’t make sense, the team noted. In some instances, they do the least work possible and spend less for that reason, even if the road justifies more repairs.
Keeping roads passable and safe is the game plan, Public Works staffers said.
Some roads need full rebuilds — the most costly projects — and some can get by with less, staffers told the council.
The plan presented to the council included only Class III roads, in which 66 of the 203 street segments are in need of substantial work.
Specific streets discussed at the meeting included Barre Street, Northfield Street and Main Street between the roundabout and Towne Hill Road.
“Two things cause potholes,” Law said, “standing water and vehicles.”
Water is the only factor the city can address, he said.
“You treat your road just like you would your house — the roof has to be sealed. The moisture that gets in there is a negative to the sub-base,” he said. “If we can treat our roads like we treat our roofs,” that will help.
Possible bonding was discussed, but City Manager William Fraser noted that most roads do not last more than 20 years, the typical life of a bond, so that form of financing is not typically used for road projects.
Council member Anne Watson said the public may be more receptive to a bond for hastening the city’s road projects, given that this winter was “the year of the pothole apocalypse.”
The city is seeking Class II paving help from the state for Upper Main Street, according to a Public Works memo covering the material that was presented Wednesday. Plans for work on Baldwin Street, Barre Street and Main Street are outlined in the memo.
For Barre Street, it is proposed to pave the worst portions, “knowing it will need to be excavated in order to repair future water leaks,” and to patch as needed or wait until a grant is received.
Mayor John Hollar said he does not see how the city’s streets can wait as long as the funding plan timeline. “That is a sobering presentation,” he said.
Previously, city officials discussed how the paving program was underfunded and competing with other projects for money. Now the plan is to invest $750,000 a year to catch up and make progress, Fraser said.
The Public Works Department’s recommendations include paving Barre Street from Hubbard to Granite streets and portions of Main Street, both of which are Class II highways.
The department will evaluate Barre Street and “determine the most cost-effective option for resurfacing,” according to the memo. For Main Street, “we propose to perform localized repairs by grinding out sections of poor condition roadway and replacing the pavement wearing surface. The intent is to improve streets that receive the high traffic volumes at the lowest cost. Additionally, DPW will apply for the Class II paving grant for Main Street from Murray Hill to the town line. If the grant is not received, this section will also receive spot repairs.”
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