On April 1, representatives from Pike Industries and VTrans, the Agency of Transportation, held an informational meeting in Ludlow at the Heald Auditorium, regarding the Route 103 paving project. Over 100 people were in attendance.

 Scheduled for completion in the 2018 construction season, Pike Industries contracted with VTrans to complete 39 miles of paving, from Rockingham to Rutland, for an approximate cost of $8.4 million. The purpose of the project was to extend the life of the good pavement using techniques such as Hot in Place Recycling. This method heats the road surface with propane ovens, then scarifies the pavement surface using a rake type system and adds a rejuvenating agent to improve the recycled asphalt binder viscosity.

 Other techniques include micro milling, which removes a small thickness of existing asphalt concrete prior to placing a surface treatment. This provides a surface that is more receptive to bonding to the new surface treatment, and results in a smoother ride.

 Pike Industries noted that not every company provides these unique features, which requires special equipment.

 While Pike Industries talked about weather in the fall as delaying the project, members of the audience, which represented just about every town impacted by route 103, complained bitterly about the six weeks of prime construction season where Pike did nothing because they removed the paver to another job site.  Not only were parts of the road torn up, construction level speed limits were strictly enforced by sheriffs and State Police though no activity was taking place. Consequently, various people complained about needless tickets as well as slower commute times.

Pike Industries admitted that they had other projects in the state and moved the paver to those jobs, anticipating a much longer fall construction season within which to complete the 103 project.

When asked to rate their job performance, Pike acknowledged, “it was certainly not our best job.”

Vermont does not levee fines but rather imposes “Liquidated damages,” which it adds for projects where they believe there have been unnecessary costs or over runs. Many in attendance came back to the point again and again of just how much the project would ultimately cost.

VTrans said the $8.4 million award allows some wiggle room. If more materials would be needed for specific locations, they could be added at the contracted rate. However, there were various factors that would need to be accounted for, e.g. the repainting of lines, so that the final cost would yet to be determined. Interestingly, Pike noted that they have paid damages before on other jobs.

Both VTrans and Pike accepted responsibility for the various errors made with regard to the project. Ultimately, people wanted to know what the completion schedule would be and how would unsafe areas like the intersection of 103/131 be addressed.

Road construction begins April 15, with the goal of completion being just before the 4th of July. While the repair work will be taking place in various parts of 103, once the paving begins, it will start at one end and continue to completion.

Numerous people spoke to the safety hazards of the 103/131 intersection, describing near misses because lines disappeared and, unless you traveled the area frequently and knew the road, you could easily cross over into an oncoming lane. It was unclear if the proposed solution, various lines for turning or going straight, will ultimately work. Several people proposed a traffic light or a blinking light with stop signs. Note, this issue has been brought up at the Cavendish Select Board meetings and it is unclear how much the train track, which crosses 103, would impact the use of a traffic light. Pike is planning to implement their proposed solution to the area and then monitor the situation to see how it is working. Based on findings, modifications to the original plan may need to be made.

All though not on the agenda,  VTrans did address the reconstruction of 131. A much more expensive project, roughly $2 million per mile versus the 103 project of $200,000 per mile, the contract will be awarded in 2020. The first season’s work will be mainly prep work for the paving that will take place in 2021.

Because of the long delays that occurred last summer-as much as 25 minutes in one direction-not only were area businesses negatively impacted, including the Ludlow Farmer’s Market, but commuters found themselves unable to judge how long it would take them. The request was made that hourly updates be provided so drivers can adjust routes and travel times.

The meeting was videoed by Okemo Valley TV and will be available at their website.