MONTPELIER – On Tuesday, Governor Phil Scott and his administration detailed how the $1.3 trillion infrastructure package being negotiated in Washington could help address Vermont’s aging bridges, water and energy systems.
“I can’t stress enough how significant this would be,” Governor Scott said. “Not only would this make us more competitive, create good-paying jobs and modernize our country, but it would also be a much-needed moral victory for a deeply polarized nation.”
Infrastructure covers a lot of ground – aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, roads, waste, stormwater, wastewater and broadband to name a few. Transportation alone is in need of an overhaul. Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn said there’s over 2,000 miles of road maintained by VTrans deemed to be in poor or very poor condition, and a number of structurally deficient bridges.
“I want to emphasize while structurally deficient does not mean unsafe, these bridges do score below targeted goals for conditions,” Flynn said. “This funding will be used to modernize bridges, highways, roads and main streets.”
Long-term improvements in certain areas will be expensive. The Agency of Natural Resources received $100 million in COVID-19 relief funds to put towards water infrastructure, but despite the importance of that money, it was only a dent in the overall need.
“While these dollar figures are significant and impactful, given the magnitude of the need, they are also a down payment on the core infrastructure,” said Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore. “Over the next ten years, we estimate that Vermont’s water infrastructure will require investments of over two billion dollars.”
The bipartisan deal would send $65 billion across the country for broadband expansion, which is welcome news for state leaders and Vermonters. Despite $150 million going toward the effort in next year’s budget and additional funding down the road, it’s estimated that it will eventually take $1 billion to get every household connected.
“Because the demand for improvement has pent up for so long, it’s understandable that we are all sitting on the edge of our chairs,” said June Tierney, Department of Public Services Commissioner. “What I can tell you is that this federal initiative is a most welcome step that is long overdue, and has eluded the country for many, many years.”
The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Vermont a “C” grade on its most recent infrastructure report card.