City Hall received a hollering from a couple living on Bliss Road in the Vermont capital who wanted to sell their home, but feared the horrifying pavement in front of the house would scare away buyers. They had reason to be pissed off: The city of 8,000 people ranks pavement on an index of one to 100. Bliss Road scored a one.
Repaving roads is expensive, so Montpelier instead used its diminishing public works budget to take a step back in time and un-pave the road. Workers hauled out a machine called a “reclaimer” and pulverized the damaged asphalt and smoothed out the road’s exterior. They filled the space between Vermont’s cruddy soil and hardier dirt and gravel up top with a “geotextile”, a hardy fabric that helps with erosion, stability and drainage.
“We didn’t know how prevalent this was,” says Laura Fay, an environmental science researcher with Montana State University’s Western Transportation Institute, who helped compile the report. But there’s clear reason for it. The Congressional Budget Office finds that the while public spending on transportation and water infrastructure has actually increased since 2003, the costs of asphalt, concrete, and cement have jumped even faster. With those extra expenses factored in, public expenditures on transportation infrastructure relative to cost fell by nine percent between 2003 and 2014.