Letter: A plan to improve Chichester’s roads
At Chichester’s town meeting on March 16, voters will be asked to make a decision about town roads. Chichester has 38.1 miles of town- maintained roads, 24.1 miles of which are paved. In recent decades, paved roads have been deteriorating, and the town has not invested enough to maintain this network.
In 2005, town voters required the selectmen to appoint a road advisory committee to recommend long- and short-term road plans. The committee has been working diligently and has completed its 2012 plan. A summary is available in the annual town report and the full plan is on the town website: chichester.org.
The average lifespan of a paved road is 20 years, even with regular maintenance. After that it is time to rebuild the road, especially a road that never had appropriate subsurface work done. To keep to a 20-year schedule, Chichester should annually reconstruct about 1.2 miles at a cost of about $375,000 in current dollars. The road advisory committee plan does that. The town has been spending only about $100,000 per year, meaning that work has been on a 75-year schedule to get to all the roads.
The selectmen and budget committee understand the problem. They have included a new “road reconstruction” line item of $186,500 in their proposed budget for 2013. This is the first time this has been done and is a great improvement over recent years. But it is only half of what is needed for a 20-year schedule. If approved, it will be the beginning of a 40-year schedule.
Voters will have to decide how much they value the town’s paved roads and what rebuilding schedule is appropriate.
(The writer is a member of the Chichester Road Advisory Committee.)