Governor Jim Douglas hauled out the barricade to officially close the Bridge Street bridge to traffic. Such construction doesn't usually draw this much attention, but it's the first project in the state to put federal stimulus dollars to work.
"All new steel will be galvanized steel because it doesn't corrode as quickly and we'll have a lot less maintenance in the future," project manager Chris Williams explained.
The $2 million project is the first segment of $126 million that will be pumped into transportation projects over the next year.
"Under the rules of the stimulus, we have to obligate half the money within 120 days," Transportation Secretary David Dill said. "We're advancing projects that were already in the queue, and that list is in front of the legislature now."
Eleven projects have finished or nearly finished the bidding process. Among them are plans for improving or replacing bridges in Barre, Brownington, and East Montpelier, and paving roads in Colchester, Rockingham and Royalton.
Together, the 11 projects use $33.6 million in federal stimulus funding.
Another 20 projects are already scheduled to go out to bid. The full list of the proposed projects for this first phase of stimulus funding can be found online at http://www.aot.state.vt.us/stimulus/documents/Phase1_%2002_23_2009.pdf.
"When you look at the poor condition of the infrastructure in terms of bridges and paving, you really can't go wrong in picking projects," Dill said. "We have lots of places to put the places wisely, create jobs, and improve our infrastructure. This money is not going to waste."
Dill says there are still more needs than funds, but this list is a solid start.
"You've got to keep in mind it's only temporary, it's not going to fix all our infrastructure," he said. "We're working with our legislature to create a bonding package as well. With the stimulus money first, followed by a bonding package, and hopefully a substantive new transportation fund authorization bill from the Congress within year or two, I'm hoping we've turned a corner on transportation infrastructure."
Richmond officials are excited to be first, but local business owners say they're worried about the impact of the bridge's closure. They're hoping for some stimulus of their own to help encourage customers to stay.
Frank Stewart, owner of the Richmond Victoria Inn, said his business was down 29 percent when the bridge closed for a month last year.
"If you can't walk across the bridge to go to the cafe, the bakery, the restaurants, they're just going to detour and not even come here," he said. "I can see the small businesses in town going to lose a lot of money."
Town officials have applied for a $50,000 rural development grant from the U.S. Dept. Agriculture. It would provide marketing support to remind people that even though the bridge is closed, the town is still open for business.
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:21 AM EST2014-03-08 15:21:27 GMT
Two firefighters are recovering from minor injuries. They were injured while fighting a at the Bennett Farm on Route 15 on the Johnson-Cambridge town line. The fire started in a shed around 7:30 FridayMore >>
Two firefighters are recovering from minor injuries.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:20 AM EST2014-03-08 15:20:42 GMT
Friends are rallying around families who lost everything in an apartment building fire in St. Johnsbury. They immediately took to Facebook after hearing about this fire and started planning to collectMore >>
Friends are rallying around families who lost everything in an apartment building fire in St. Johnsbury.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:20 AM EST2014-03-08 15:20:05 GMT
Reporter: "What are some of the most common burn injuries that we see with kids coming into the hospital?" Jim Esdon, Dartmouth Hitchcock Injury Prevention Center: "This time of year, the glass frontedMore >>
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Saturday, March 8 2014 10:19 AM EST2014-03-08 15:19:21 GMT
Armed with just two L rods, 87-year-old John Wayne Blassingame starts looking for water by asking yes or no questions. "Does it go past 20 feet, does it go past 30 feet, yah," he says. The rods crossingMore >>
A national organization based in Danville says it is providing resources to people in desperate need to find water.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 8:31 AM EST2014-03-08 13:31:36 GMT
The Governor is traveling to Rhode Island Saturday. His office says Governor Peter Shumlin will be at Brown University in Providence taking part in a forum with the Rhode Island Governor. While theMore >>
The Governor is traveling to Rhode Island Saturday. More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 8:17 AM EST2014-03-08 13:17:30 GMT
We have some ideas for your Saturday. IRISH FESTIVAL The 19th annual Burlington Irish Heritage Festival kicks off today. There is a lecture about the role of Irish immigrants in the Civil War at theMore >>
Friday, March 7 2014 7:28 PM EST2014-03-08 00:28:44 GMT
Williston Police say, the powder was from a generic prescription medication. They say, the man was from Burlington and had the paperwork in his pocket with his medicine and that's how it got on there. More >>
Williston Police say, the powder was from a generic prescription medication. They say, the man was from Burlington and had the paperwork in his pocket with his medicine and that's how it got on there.More >>