Trail repairs rankle some Rupert residents - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Trail repairs rankle some Rupert residents

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Tropical Storm Irene wreaked havoc across Vermont in 2011, including Bennington County. The small town of Rupert is getting around to some infrastructure repairs two and a half years later. One of those is a rail trail that has at least two of Rupert's just over 700 citizens fuming mad.

"They're spending a lot of money that we'd like to have to spend on our roads and bridges," said Jay Wilson of the Rupert Highway Department.

"Ridiculous the amount of money they're putting into the repairs," said Don Lewis of Rupert.

The amount is $750,000 to be exact. That's what Chris Cole from VTrans told us is being allocated from Federal Emergency Management Agency relief funds toward this recreational project.

"The money being used for the rail trail is payments for the damaged infrastructure, and that money cannot be used for anything other than repairing the damaged infrastructure," Cole said.

Jay Wilson pointed out some other things he thinks are more essential, like a road he says hasn't been paved in more than 30 years and a visibly cracked bridge. But VTRANS says they are not to blame.

"So who's responsibility for transportation infrastructure is really a mishmash between state and federal and town as to what funding is used and who's responsible to maintain it," Cole explained.

Cole says when it's a town bridge longer than 20 feet, it's on them. Otherwise it's the town's responsibility. Although VTrans says the FEMA funds allocated for the rail trail can only be used for that project, Wilson thinks putting that money plus an additional $400,000 from the state bicycle and pedestrian program toward a project he says won't get much use is frivolous.

"I just wonder why we keep throwing more money at something that's probably never ever gonna amount to anything other than a walking trail or a snowmobile trail," Wilson said.

Lewis agrees. "I think they're going way overboard on the amount of funds that are being spent," he said.

When we were there in Rupert, we did see one woman walking on the rail trail. Although she was enjoying it, she also said she would rather see their bridges and roads repaired than have a leisurely place to walk. The project is expected to be completed this summer.

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