Roadwork ahead, but without stimulus money (5/21/09)

Projects fail to qualify for federal funding

May 21, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

The town of Williston will embark on an ambitious $249,000 paving program this year. But local taxpayers will pick up the entire tab because state rules disqualified smaller projects from receiving federal stimulus money.

Nine roads will be paved. The town awarded the contract to ST Paving Inc. of Waterbury, which submitted the low bid of $62.62 per ton of asphalt.

Williston applied for but did not receive funding for some of the paving projects through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the federal stimulus package. The state of Vermont had $125 million in stimulus money to spend for road and bridge work.

Rules governing how the money was allocated, which were put in place by the Agency of Transportation in consultation with the legislature, limited eligibility to projects costing more than $300,000, said AOT spokesman John Zicconi. The state imposed the rule largely because of high administrative costs associated with federally funded highway work.

“There’s just a lot of strings that come with federal money,” he said. “So if a project does not cost enough, you end up wasting a lot of money on things not related to paving.”

Zicconi added that there was not enough stimulus funding to pay for all the proposed paving projects, so the state tried to ensure its choices represented the most cost-effective use of money.

Williston Public Works Director Neil Boyden said he was not surprised the town’s projects were considered too small for stimulus money. He said “horrendous” federal rules can render more modest road projects cost prohibitive.

“I’m a little disappointed, yes,” he said. “But I’ve worked on enough federal projects before to know it is unbelievable the amount of paperwork.”

The town applied for $611,000 in stimulus money to fund paving work. The money would have paid for fresh asphalt on Marshall Avenue as well as Oak Hill and Old Stage roads.

Funding for this year’s paving projects will now be split between the current fiscal year’s budget and the 2009-2010 budget, Boyden said.

The town saved money by delaying some of the previously planned paving work until this year, Boyden said. Prices for oil, a major component of asphalt, skyrocketed last year, driving up the cost of paving. Oil prices have since fallen, bringing lower paving prices.

Plans call for paving stretches ranging from a quarter-mile to a half-mile long on Marshall Avenue, Redmond Road, Metcalf Drive, Lyman Drive, Mountain View Road, Industrial Avenue, South Brownell Road, Maple Road and Blair Park Road.

Though it is impossible to determine a precise schedule because of uncertain weather, Boyden said work will probably begin no later than the end of May and continue into the summer.

Marshall Avenue, Redmond Road and Mountain View Road will be the first to receive fresh asphalt, he said. Some preparation work on Metcalf and Lyman drives as well as Maple and Blair Park roads will take place before paving begins.

Paving plans

The following roads are slated for paving this spring and summer:

•    Blair Park Road, including Eagle Crest loop

•    Industrial Avenue, from the bridge to Vermont 2A

•    Lyman Drive

•    Maple Road

•    Marshall Avenue, from Leroy Road to South Burlington town line

•    Metcalf Drive, north and south sections

•    Mountain View Road, from Old Stage Road to Ledgewood Drive

•    Redmond Road, from IBM entrance to sandpit

•    South Brownell Road, from Sucker Brook southward