In a letter dated March 29, Vermont Secretary of Transportation Joe Flynn thanked the Wilmington Selectboard for a letter they sent mid-March asking that he do anything possible “to accelerate the much needed work on Vermont Route 100.”
In his response, Flynn said that while he has told chief engineer Wayne Symonds of his desire to find a solution for “more immediate repairs to Route 100 ahead of the paving project, understanding that funding for those repairs has not been funded.”
Flynn said that unfortunately, all pavement issues in the state cannot be addressed at once and “some areas of the state may need to endure poor pavement conditions longer than they feel is necessary.”
Wilmington resident Janet Boyd received a similar response to a letter and petition she sent to Chad Allen, asset management and performance director for the Vermont Agency of Transportation. Boyd submitted a letter along with a petition signed by residents.
In her letter, in which Boyd detailed the negative impacts the road has had on her business as a real estate agent, Boyd asked that funding for a bike path in Bennington be redirected to “do a proper repavement of Route 100 starting in April.” In a response on March 13, Allen said that the agency has plans to “address approximately 3 miles of the worst sections of VT 100 in the Wilmington-Dover area that will increase customer satisfaction until the capital project, Wilmington-Stratton STP PS19(7) comes through between the summer of 2020 and 2021,” noting that while there are not currently monies to allow the project to happen earlier, the agency will “continue to examine all opportunities.”
Allen said that funding for bike paths does not compete with funding for paving projects or vice versa. “There are simply too many pavement needs (and not enough money) across the state to provide everybody with ‘good’ pavement all of the time,” wrote Allen.
At a March 20 meeting of the Dover Selectboard, economic development director Steve Neratko said he’d heard from Vermont Secretary of Commerce Michael Schirling in response to a letter the board sent expressing concerns about the condition of the road. The Dover Selectboard’s letter was signed February 20 following a request from board member Dan Baliotti at the board’s February 6 meeting.
“He said he has had further discussions with VTrans and the governor’s office,” said Neratko at the time. “He said they will be doing hot patch at a minimum as soon as hot patch facilities are up and running, and they are looking to do something this summer. So, hopefully, something will happen.”
Wilmington resident Michele Doucette, who sustained damage to her vehicle on February 22 when driving on the much-maligned patch of road in the snow after dark, submitted a claim to VTrans for repayment for the costs of the damage. Her claim was denied.
In a letter dated March 23, a representative from PMA Companies, VTrans’ third-party risk management company, said the claim was being denied because “The state of Vermont had no prior knowledge of any defect that had developed from the pothole. The state is not liable for damage incurred due to unknown hazards such as potholes, sinkholes and broken pavement. Once the state is made aware of a hazard, they are obligated to repair it.”
VTrans District Administrator Rob Faley said while he couldn’t speak to how claims are processed, “We do get inquiries from PMA about potholes, if we were aware of them, and when they were repaired. I also know that the general premise is the first claim on a single pothole makes VTrans aware of it so it typically is not paid.”
Rebecca White, director of operations for the Department of Risk Management, said she had looked at Doucette’s claim and saw that the pothole in the claim had not been reported previously. But White said she wasn’t familiar with the condition of the road in general, and said she would investigate the matter further.
Doucette, who intends to appeal the decision, posted a request on Facebook last week for any residents who may have record of contact with VTrans prior to February 22 to get in touch with her.
“Please let me know if you had any contact with the Department of Transportation about Route 100,” she wrote, “and if you would like to file a claim, contact DOT in Bennington. We need to keep the pressure on. Squeaky wheels (and bent rims, flat tires, front end damage…).”