Highway budgets exhausted by winter

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

Talk to county and town officials about roads and bridges these days and everyone’s quick to knock on wood first. Then come the jokes about whether all our municipalities saw snow or not this past winter.

Soon enough, though, things get serious and everyone’s talking about the estimated costs these past few months, their growing lists for repairs and replenishments, and how they’re hoping to start getting around to some exact figures as soon as we’ve all gotten past the last freeze and at least two days of 50 degree plus weather, when the region’s asphalt factories get back into gear.

“Oh yeah, we had winter,” says Woodstock highway superintendent Mike Reynolds. “Budget-wise we’re tapped out right now. There’s only a little salt left and our budget’s almost all gone despite having gone through only three months of the year.”


Reynolds noted how the storms, at least from February on, tended to hit on weekends, requiring overtime payments to the crews going out night and day to keep roads passable. And with talk that salt and sand costs have started rising precipitously, “we’re all behind the 8-ball.”

In terms of specifics, Reynolds noted what bad shape Glasco Turnpike — a county road — is in at present, as well as the upheaval to such dirt roads as the upper stretches of Silver Hollow, which because of a much deeper freeze than usual became barely passable as soon as spring hit.

“We’ve been patching what we can but can’t do any bigger repairs until it gets warmer,” he added. “Once spring appears other than what it says on the calendar, we’ll be running road patrols to assess the damage, then adding up all our costs to date.”

The result will be a reordering of what lists the highway department had put together last autumn. Reynolds Lane, for example, will still get work, but maybe not everything; some stuff is still awaiting long-promised NY Rising funds to appear. Other jobs will have to be put off at least a year, given the need for new salt and sand for next fall.


County: much work to be done

Addressing Glasco Turnpike’s bumpy ride, the long stalled culvert and road repair work that’s seen West Saugerties Road limited to a single lane and stoplight for months, and other priorities for the area, Deputy County Executive Robert Sudlow talked about how everyone “got clobbered” in the Hudson valley, and particularly the entire Woodstock area, this past winter.

“We’re waiting for the blacktop factories to finish West Saugerties Road and then a full three miles of Glasco Turnpike from Rock City Road to Route 212,” he noted, guessing there could well be a work start date by the middle of this month, around tax time.

Sudlow said the county was also looking to repair and repave two miles of Blue Mountain Road in Saugerties, and fix up the “Three Rs Bridge” on Leggs Mill Road first put in for Woodstock ‘94 and now ready for being made permanent, as well as other “Core-10” bridges on Malden Turnpike and along Oliverea Road. Plus a lot of paving around Olivebridge and Krumville and new shoulders along Bridge Street in Phoenicia, as well as near Frost Valley YMCA camp and up around Wittenberg.

“We went through our overtime budget, we went through our salt budget,” Sudlow summarized. “Our roads are all in bad condition and we’re reclaiming and repairing all we can over the coming months.”

Countywide, he listed 20 miles of roads to be repairs using “capital funds,” 22.5 miles in state and federal CHIPS funding, and the $10 million that Sudlow’s boss, County Executive Mike Hein, has set aside for “building a better Ulster County.”


More OT

“It’s hard to figure out just now excepting to note that some of our roads have ended up in pretty bad shape,” added Shandaken highway superintendent Eric Hofmeister, after noting how he’d pretty much estimated salt needs okay, and was glad his town could produce its own sand. “We got hit by the overtime…”

“I’ve got some shuffling to do now,” said Reynolds from the Woodstock Highway Garage in Bearsville. “It’s a shell game.”