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More roads, bridges under construction!

Tourists beware: Vermont is under construction.

Gov. Jim Douglas last week signed into law a $595 million transportation bill at the Miller Brook Bridge project in Stowe. The fiscal year 2011 transportation budget contains record spending for Montpelier's long-neglected bridge rehabilitation and repair eyesores, as well as record or near record sums for other transportation programs, including rail and paving.

"These investments continue the strong commitment we've made to our physical infrastructure in recent years," Douglas said. This transportation budget will generously fund many priorities, such as paving, bridges and rail, and create jobs across the state."

The fiscal year 2011 bridge expenditure of $113.2 million is a record sum, and represents the first time the Vermont Agency of Transportation's bridge budget has topped $100 million. This represents a $19.3 million increase (21 percent) over the previous high in fiscal year 2010.

In addition to all the work that will be done through the bridge appropriation, the transportation bill also funds an additional $5.8 million worth of town-highway structures grants. These are taxpayer funded grants that will be awarded directly to towns for rehab, repair and replacement of both bridges and culverts. Combined, the grant program and state bridge budget are expected to fund the rehabilitation, reconstruction or maintenance of about 150 bridges statewide.

"All of this work will allow us to continue to decrease Vermont's number of structurally deficient bridges," said Transportation Secretary David Dill. In 2004, 11.2 percent of Vermont's Interstate bridges were structurally deficient. Today, just 7 percent are structurally deficient. Similarly, in 2004, 18.5 percent of town highway bridges were structurally deficient, while today just 15.9 percent are structurally deficient. All of the bridge work built into the new budget will allow us to reduce these numbers even more."

Other Transportation Bill highlights include $93.4 million for paving which will help Vermont Agency of Transportation resurface about 300 miles of roadway this construction season, and $51.7 million for railroad improvements, including $5 million for continued AMTRAK rail passenger service on the Vermonter and Ethan Allen lines as well as $26 million to begin track and bridge upgrades to increase train speeds for the Vermonter.

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