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Warm Weather Gives Road Crews Extra Time To Finish Fall Work

Howard Weiss-Tisman
Brattleboro Public Works employee Brian Frechette, left, pulls a compactor over hot asphalt as Scott Johnson looks on.

Road crews across the state are taking advantage of the warm days to catch up on projects they couldn't get done during the fall.

Vermonters who love winter are looking out the window, and seeing a depressing, barren landscape. The ski trails are brown. The snowmobiles are gassed up, but sitting in the garage. And shovels, winter boots and snow blowers are not selling.

Brattleboro Public Works Director Steve Barrett sees opportunity.

"Normally we have a workload that is so great that we don't always accomplish everything we want to anyways," says Barrett. "We plan for winter, we plan for our summer projects. But having some extra time to finish the summer projects and the fall projects has been really a big advantage to us."

This week, as the thermometer crept into the 50s, a Brattleboro road crew was spreading asphalt on a cracked sidewalk.

Barrett says instead of plowing and sanding roads his crews have been cutting brush, grading roads, sweeping streets and cleaning culverts.

"We plan for winter. We plan for our summer projects. But having some extra time to finish the summer projects and the fall projects has been really a big advantage to us." — Steve Barrett, Brattleboro Public Works Director

And instead of dealing with broken winter plows, his maintenance team is getting ahead and working on the summer equipment.

"Last year, we had snow on Thanksgiving, early November... [This year,] we've only had a few nights in the 30s," he says.  "So big change. Big change. We haven't had to have anybody go out and plow or sand or salt at this point, which is a huge savings to the budget."

Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR
Brattleboro Public Works Director Steve Barrett in front of the town's untouched salt pile at the town garage.

Todd Law is a maintenance engineer with VTrans, and he says state road crews are still picking up litter on highways, which is unheard of.

And while he also says there is plenty to keep his staff busy, there is still limits on just how ambitious Vtrans can be in taking on major warm weather projects.

"We can't get into a lot of the major work," says Law. "Anything that's going to involve pavement, we really can't do, because the paving plants closed. They closed in the last couple of weeks, which really puts a halt on doing those major projects."

Law says the sand and salt is piled up, and the plows are ready to go for whenever winter finally arrives.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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