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Bedford to debate plan for $30 million in road repairs

BEDFORD — The Town Council will consider a road proposal worth $30 million when it meets on Sept. 18.

In a presentation to the council on Aug. 14, Town Manager Jesse Levine said the objective of the proposal is to address a backlog of repairs on Bedford’s 189 miles of roads and to lay a path for a sustainable yearly road maintenance program.

Under the proposed plan, the town would seek an initial authorization from taxpayers for up to $30 million in 2014 but would break that down into three $10 million, 10-year bonds issued every two years beginning in 2015.

Levine estimated that there is currently a $31 million backlog in road repairs, which includes $11.4 million on collector roads, $13.2 million on local roads, $3 million in bridges/major culverts and $3.5 million in routine and preventative maintenance.

Levine said the cost of maintaining roads has doubled in the past 10 years, with liquid asphalt prices going from $35 a ton in 2003 to more than $70 in 2013.

Voters passed road repair plans in 2003 and 2005, but rejected bond requests in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

In 2011, voters approved a $13.2 million bond that included $11.2 million for road work.

The proposal also includes a plan for gradually increasing the town’s annual road maintenance budget to $2 million by 2018, up from its current budget of $1 million.

Town Council member Bill Dermody said road maintenance is a key factor in preserving Bedford’s infrastructure.

“That million doesn’t really hack it anymore,” he said.

Dermody said the plan would ensure that local roads that stem from larger collector roads would receive attention.

For example, Dermody said collector roads such as North Amherst are worked on in sections. To maximize resources, local roads off of it are worked on, but not all of them are likely to be completed.

“Two things happen,” Dermody said. “You run out of season, and you run out of money.”

The following construction season, if crews move on to another section of the road, the local roads from the previous year’s construction may not be addressed.

“It’s now time to catch up with these roads,” said Dermody.

Levine described the plan as both aggressive and optimistic, but said that anything less is not enough, and would require the town to return to voters in multiple years to request more funding.

“The longer the roads go unmaintained, the more expensive they are,” she said.

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