Vermont mayors hopeful for federal infrastructure infusion

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Rep. Peter Welch says Congress is discussing a major infrastructure bill that could total $1.5 trillion and bring significant assistant to Vermont's cities and towns.

Vermont has billions of dollars in water infrastructure needs. When you add in roads and bridges across Vermont, the number grows even higher. But there may be some federal assistance on the horizon.

"If we put a comprehensive plan on the table and are working on this in a bipartisan way, I think there's a shot for us to do something significant," Welch said. He says he's bullish on Congress passing an infrastructure bill. "I think the odds are much better than they've been in a long time."

Vermont's eight mayors are getting tired of waiting. "We have an old wastewater treatment plant, which is probably due for an upgrade in not too many years. Just about the time that we finish paying for the last upgrade," said Vergennes Mayor William Benton.

Welch met the mayors in Montpelier Monday and promised to bring their needs back to his friends in Congress. Those needs are extensive.

"Montpelier, particularly, is looking at replacing or repairing quite a few bridges over the next five years," said Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson. She says the capital city has major water needs, too, after several broken mains this winter. "It's not actually our oldest infrastructure that's failing right now. It's actually infrastructure that was put in in the 70s."

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger says any federal help should be flexible and allow cities and towns to spend it on emerging needs. "If the federal government was matching decisions that were made at the local level you would know that money is being used well," Weinberger said. With Democrats controlling the House there's renewed hope for federal cash. "It's a hopeful time that after years of talking about that, perhaps the federal government is getting serious about assisting with infrastructure.

President Trump has spoken in favor of an infrastructure bill in the past, but whether he can strike a deal with Congress remains to be seen.