Annual repaving could be accelerated

The Board of Selectmen is looking into the possibility of accelerating annual repaving of roads from 10 miles per year to 15 miles per year.

The result would be that by the end of the 2022 fiscal year, every road in town would be no more than 10 years old, First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice told selectmen at their meeting Nov. 21 at town hall.

“The most common request from residents is road repaving due to either the deteriorating condition of their own road or a road they frequently travel or both,” Vanderslice said in her memo to the selectmen about the roads.

“If we continue to repave at the rate of 10 miles per year, it will take eight to nine years, not seven and a half years, to reach our goal. This is because some of the major roads repaved early on in the road restoration program have lives of less than 10 years and thus will again need repaving,” Vanderslice said.

The road restoration program was initiated in 2012 with a five-year bonding program when 40% of Wilton’s roads were more than 20 years old. In 2014 voters approved approximately $3.5 million in bonding to pay for the final three years of the program.

Accelerating the repaving would come with a cost. It would mean a $5-million acceleration in bonding and an acceleration of principal payments for a total of $1.4 million in accelerated principal payments during a five-year period. But that amount seems manageable because of a similar amount of savings from the anticipated $5-million reduction in the cost of Miller-Driscoll School, Vanderslice said.

The road bonding issue is an about-face for Vanderslice. She campaigned in 2015 saying she opposed 20-year bonding for road projects, but things are different now because the bonding is for 10 years, she said. That means the 15-year life of the road is longer than the 10 years for bonding.

“Therefore, when the average road with a life of 15 years is repaved in the future, the bond for its previous paving will have been retired,” Vanderslice said.

The next step is to drive the roads to obtain a better understanding of their condition and the need for acceleration.

“In the meantime, I have asked the selectmen to look at some roads firsthand so they understand the need to accelerate our repaving program,” Vanderslice said in an email.

The Board of Selectmen will revisit the issue in February.

Public Works Director Tom Thurkettle said the life of a paved road is 15 years, and perhaps 10 years if it is a heavily traveled road that takes the weight of heavy vehicles like tractor-trailers.

The spring thaw is when potholes break out. If the winter is mild, cracks could form in the pavement, Thurkettle said.

The Public Works Department repaves a sampling of roads in every district in town each year to keep the repaving program balanced for all residents, he said. The town has 127.3 miles of roads to maintain.

“If you let it go, it costs more to fix it,” he said, than to maintain it.

“I think you are doing an excellent job,” Selectman Michael Kaelin told Thurkettle.

Selectman Dick Dubow also credited Thurkettle and his workers for jobs well done.

The paving season ends in the first week of December, then picks up again early in the spring when the asphalt plants reopen.