Effort underway to fix Vermont's roughest roads

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MORETOWN, Vt. (WCAX) There is no question that in Vermont some roads are more maintained than others, but now state officials have started an inventory of Class 4 roads to prioritize repairs.

Vermont's roads get a 1-4 classification. An example of a Class 1 road is something like the interstate that is well maintained. For a Class 4 road, the road is a lot bumpier and is not as easy for a typical car.

That makes it hard to travel to places like sugaring houses and various places to recreate. However, the state is pushing to fix that.

"Class 4 roads are generally higher up in elevation and lower traffic volumes and provide access to farm fields, maple sugaring operations, logging forestry jobs, a lot of recreation opportunities," said Jim Ryan with the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Class 4 roads are more common than you might think. They make up 12 percent of Vermont roadways or about 1,600 road miles. So with limited traffic in unpopulated areas, why are these roads important to maintain?

"Many towns that we are working with, they find that these roads are the roads that the locals use to go to places that they are still interested in visiting," said Dan Currier with the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission.

Officials say the state is now looking at ways to fix these Class 4 roads, and that starts with new standards.

"The Class 4 road standard essentially addresses the severest of erosion we call gully erosion, which is a foot or so in depth," Ryan said.

The first part of Lynch Hill in Moretown has been upgraded. New gravel has been placed to make it easier to access, but after a certain point, it's basically impassable by car. With big ditches, huge holes and loose gravel, this road is designed for ATVs.

The state is addressing the issue by having towns start taking inventory of gully roads. The goal is to assess which roads are the highest priority for the state to fix.

After that two year inventory, each town will have 16 years and grant money to bring all of their Class 4 roads to the new standards.

"Class 4 roads are often put on the back burner as far as towns' scheduling and budgeting because of the low volume, so we wanted to be able to direct some money for towns for those roads," Ryan said.

They've had success with getting towns like Moretown, Waitsfield, Worchester and Calais to fix some of their Class 4 roads with grant money.